Poseidon demands the General Secretary of the UN IMO, Kitack Lim, sorts his ship out.

Delegates attending Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC80), at the UN International Maritime Organisation (IMO) HQ, had their drinks and canapé celebration interrupted by an angry and frustrated Poseidon, Ruler of the Ocean. Member States who are obstructing environmental progress, like Argentina and Saudi Arabia, choked on their lobster vol-au-vents as Poseidon called out their malpractice and greed. Poseidon was accompanied by two desperate, dripping, merpeople who looked near dead – poisoned by ocean pollution.  

Livestream from UN IMO HQ.

The frustrated and angry Poseidon enters the drinks reception with his Merpeople.

Appalled by the state of the dying Ocean and the IMO’s failure to offer any environmental help, Poseidon swam up the Thames, holding his nose as he passed the nearby House of Commons, to make a last minute plea to the IMO. Amazingly, Ocean life, has no voice at the IMO. Unlike the oil and gas polluters who peddle the poisonous Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO) which shipping burns at sea, and China, who is urging ‘developing’ nations to vote against any ‘overly ambitious emission reduction targets’.

Poseidon had already sent a letter to the IMO Secretary General Kitack Lim, which he ignored. This left Poseidon with no choice but to leave his watery realm to infiltrate the IMO HQ and, as Head of State of 71% of the earth’s surface, directly make his commands known. Poseidon was dressed in a fetching cloak of seaweed with a dazzling seaweed diadem. Sadly, his accompanying merfolk appeared to be poisoned by marine pollutants and tangled in discarded fishing nets – fishing waste makes up 70% of marine microplastics.

Poseidon proclaimed: “Our oceans are overheating. The seas are acidifying.The Ocean oxygen needed for humans and merfolk to breathe is disappearing. Our majestic merfolk are being trapped in all sorts of discarded rubbish and poisoned by industrial toxins. Plastic pollution litters the beaches and the seabed and is snaring sea life. The shipping you regulate is a major contributor to this, with spills of oil, plastic nodules, ghost nets, chemicals and food waste all creating a toxic pollution mix which is playing a major part in climate and nature collapse. My watery realm is becoming uninhabitable! And the air you breathe is too – just think how many lives have been shortened by breathing the noxious fumes of Heavy Fuel Oil, shame on you!”  

Poseidon added, “At the MEPC meetings this week these issues will be discussed.  But the time for more blah-blah-blah is long gone. You will now act by pushing obstructive states back into history where they belong, and begin the real, near-term steps needed to get shipping emissions down by 50% by 2030. This is in line with your own Paris Agreement targets, and not far off demands of EU, UK, US and Canada.  It’s completely doable—just do it.”

the time for blah-blah-blah has long gone

Admittedly this was theatre, but so is the IMO itself – a theatre of horror, which, by failing to act on shipping emissions, is condemning countless millions to agonising deaths.

As the MEPC Member State delegates continued munching canapés and sipping fizz, across the street two figures unfurled a banner saying ‘50% down by 2030 = 1.5 degrees.’

The IMO is currently revising its existing climate strategy. The IMO only aims to halve shipping emissions by 2050. Delegates are meeting this week in London to conclude the ongoing strategy of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 80).

The fate of the Ocean depends on us all.
We’ll let you know what we’re doing to help.

Ocean Rebellion calls on IMO Member States to: 
– Follow the science and commit to halve ship emissions by 2030
– Force ships to slow down to rapidly cut emissions
– Prioritise wind power for ships, new and old
– Speed up the roll-out of new climate-friendly fuels
– Steeply price the carbon in shipping fuels
– Scrap flags of convenience and offer a single standard of employment rights to all seafarers 
– Make sure no-one is left behind by helping countries in need.

The IMO is allowing the fossil fuel industry to continue incinerating its waste product, HFO, at sea. HFO is a fossil fuel distillation byproduct that’s so toxic its use is banned on land – it’s highly acidic, full of nitrogen oxides (a major cause of respiratory diseases) and has been linked to 400,000 premature deaths worldwide per year (at a health cost of $50 billion). 

The IMO is failing in its duty to meet the Paris Climate Agreement. It must act now to halve shipping emissions before 2030, advise against any fossil fuel subsidies and start severely taxing shipping fuel. All fossil fuel lobbyists must be ejected from committees and black-listed for their horrific influence on policy making, and all IMO processes must be made transparent and open to scrutiny.

The fate of the Ocean depends on us all.
Our interventions depend on your support.

Sophie Miller of Ocean Rebellion said: 
“The horror of a few merpeople dying is nothing to the horror of the agreements reached behind closed doors at the IMO by fossil fuel and shipping lobbyists from obstructive countries like Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Argentina. Countries who are determined to explode a carbon bomb under all our futures. The IMO’s refusal to tackle shipping pollution ahead of 2030 is destroying the Ocean and any chance we have of keeping anywhere near to the 1.5C demanded by the Paris Climate Agreement…”

Sophie Miller adds: 
“…an agreement brokered by the UN but one which one of its own bodies (UN IMO) can’t be bothered to implement. The IMO still refuses to take simple actions like slow steaming, using cleaner distillates instead of HFO and regulating unnecessary shipping, preferring instead to listen to the oily advice of the fossil fuel lobbyists who always insist on ‘business as usual,’ once again showing how little shipping cares about the climate and how much it loves the fossil fuel industry.’

Rob Higgs of Ocean Rebellion said: 
“The IMO is allowing the fossil fuel industry to continue incinerating its waste product, HFO, at sea. HFO is a fossil fuel distillation byproduct that’s so toxic its use is banned on land – it’s highly acidic, full of nitrogen oxides (a major cause of respiratory diseases) and has been linked to 400,000 premature deaths worldwide per year (at a health cost of $50 billion).”

Suzanne Stallard of Ocean Rebellion said: 
“By allowing ships to burn HFO the IMO is significantly increasing shipping’s contribution to CO2 emissions rather than reducing them in line with the Paris Agreement. Furthermore black carbon from burnt HFO falls as soot and makes the ice caps absorb more heat and melt, further accelerating the terrifying feedback loops of planetary heating which are already killing millions and threaten all our lives. The IMO must act to end HFO use now – not just in the Arctic but everywhere – if it is illegal to burn a fuel type on land then it should be illegal to burn it at sea. After all, much of it eventually ends up in the same place – our lungs.’

Clive Russell of Ocean Rebellion said: 
“Not only is the IMO greenwashing fossil fuel use, it’s also proposing dirty ‘scrubbers’ to do the same for ships. These scrubbers stop the worst HFO emissions entering the atmosphere: that’s good right? Well not if the scrubber turns it into an acidic solution and pumps it into the Ocean. So while still  polluting the air the IMO is also now directly acidifying the sea – that’s surely the definition of greenwash! The IMO’s ‘solution’ is a toxic solution.”

Chris Armstrong, University of Southampton says: 
“By dodging obvious reforms like slow steaming, wind, and less international commerce the IMO condemns the Paris Climate Agreement to death by a thousand meetings. We must cut shipping emissions now. Commitments to Net Zero by 2050 cannot be used as a corporate ruse to avoid taking urgent action.”

Roc Sandford of Ocean Rebellion said: 
“The IMO is clearly unfit for purpose. It only acts on behalf of the shipping industry and rarely considers the environment. It must halve shipping emissions now, we are already too late for some people to survive the IMOs grisly policies, but not yet for everyone. Add to this the IMO’s continued backing of the fossil fuel industry, by not taxing shipping fuel and allowing the dirty fossil fuel byproduct HFO to be burned at sea, plus its lack of regulation of hazardous petrochemical shipping, and the list of IMO misdeeds and wrong directions begins to get very long indeed. Given this ever expanding list isn’t it time the environmental remit of the IMO is governed by another, better, UN agency?  Life is too important to be squandered by inept bureaucracy.”

Ocean Rebellion demands: The UN must form a new, transparent, and representative body to govern the Ocean for the benefit of ALL life. This new body must have the restoration and replenishment of the Ocean as its only measure of success. It should replace corporate power with people power. And it should represent the many forms of marine life who actually make the ocean a home.


Photos by, from the top: 1, 3, 5, 7, 11, 12 and 13, Guy Reece; 2, 4, 6, 8, 9 and 10, Crispin Hughes.

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