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Today Ocean Rebellion visited the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), again.

If only we could leave the IMO alone, we would if they took environmental governance seriously. But they don’t.

On a cold November morning three Fossil Fool Oil heads, representing industrial lobbying of the IMO, vomited oil and distributed dirty money to arriving delegates on the first day of the latest Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC) meeting.

The Fossil Fools were joined by their buddies Kitack Lim (the IMO Secretary General) and Captain Ian Finley (the representative of the Cook Islands) you can read about him here.

Both Kitack and Ian seemed to be at home with the oily cash handed out by the Fossil Fools – I guess they’re used to it, they’ve been pocketing it for years. Maybe that’s why Captain Ian Finley has backed plans to make 85% of shipping exempt from emission limits? We don’t know, but we’d love to hear from him.

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Afterwards the dirty scrubbers arrived to greenwash the situation with mops and buckets, ensuring that the 77th MEPC could proceed undisturbed.

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This is not Ocean Rebellion’s first visit to the IMO; a year ago we set fire to a boat outside the IMO to mark their total disregard for the Paris Agreement. On that occasion the IMO resisted calls from the environment sector to set any binding targets for emission reductions before 2030.

The UN Climate Change synthesis stated that a 45 per cent cut is needed. The IMO has refused to commit to any such cuts, in contrast the shipping industry is on a growth trajectory.

The IMO is the only international body responsible for the state of the oceans: there is no one else to turn to. Their membership is dominated by the shipping and fishing nations. They are directly and indirectly led by the interests of big oil. They are the UN agency with the most corporate delegates, roughly one third. The IMO is not fit for purpose, it cannot protect and conserve ocean environments, especially in an age when we need governance that goes well beyond conservation.

Furthermore shipping is inherently bound up with the interests of the oil industry. Shipping provides the only means for the oil industry to dispose of its waste product. This is burned in big ships’ engines as Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO), the dirtiest form of fuel. If ships didn’t burn it, its disposal would need to be paid for. Instead ships are designed to run on it and subsidised to do so. Of all forms of transport, shipping is alone in paying no fuel tax. 80% of ships burn HFO and 40% of what they carry is fuel. Cheap oil makes cheap shipping possible which perpetuates cheap consumption. 95% of all products travel by boat to the UK.

of all products travel by boat

Sophie Miller of Ocean Rebellion said:
“Our demand is simple; Get Ships Off Fossil Fuels, to stop climate breakdown, prevent repeated negligent fossil fuel oil spills including in the Arctic, and to protect people’s livelihoods, and our precious marine environments.”

She adds:
“The IMO has a chance to turn things around. To make a real difference not just to marine life but to our survival as a species on this planet. But it needs to step up now. To get out of bed with the fossil fuel industry and stand up for the environment.”

Andrew Darnton of Ocean Rebellion said:
“Ocean Rebellion has just returned from COP where our message was we can’t save the climate without saving the oceans. We are coming to the IMO to say that they have to start cutting carbon in order to have any chance of preventing runaway climate change. Last time IMO discussed this, they decided to do nothing. Shipping must take urgent action if we are to have any chance of staying within 1.5 degrees.”

Ada, one of the dirty scrubber greenwash experts said:
“Working with shipping companies is very lucrative. The trick is to keep it out of the news then nobody knows what you’re doing. We work with lots of partners to make ownership opaque so no one knows who owns what. We have partnership programmes for flags of convenience in place with Liberia, Malta, Barbados, Bahamas and of course our greatest partner Panama. We got ourselves representation at the International Maritime Organisation and so far it’s a cushty number, out of sight and out of mind. Of course we felt a bit of heat when the Suez Canal got blocked in April but our damage limitation worked perfectly. Industrial ‘just in time’ supply chains have given us so much wonderful greenwash work, it’s always a pleasure to help out.”


Ocean Rebellion demands the IMO severs all ties with the Fossil Fuel Industry and Acts Now to slash shipping emissions.

dirty scrubber
dirty scrubber

Photos: Guy Reece

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