Norway and Greece join forces to #BEATMARINEPOLLUTION
To mark World Environment Day 2018 and Posidonia, the Norwegian Embassy in Athens, in partnership with HELMEPA, organized a breakfast seminar on how the industry, organizations and individuals can help prevent, reduce and remove plastic pollution from the ocean.
More than 120 representatives, including top executives from Norwegian and Greek maritime companies, gathered to discuss concrete ways of coming to grips with this urgent priority. Outstanding efforts of Greek foundations and organizations, with youth, fishermen and coastal communities as well as shipowners and crew were highlighted, while all agreed that there is a major role for industry to play in driving innovation, technological development and new standards for how business is done. The goal of the seminar was to inspire to concrete action by highlighting the many ways actors are approaching the challenge, in Norway and in Greece.
In his opening remarks, Ambassador Jørn Gjelstad, underlined that the ocean economy will be a fast growing and absolutely necessary part of the future global economy, and that economic growth must go hand in hand with environmental sustainability. “This concerns our human behavior: our pattern of consumption, how we use and re-use, and how we manage the waste”, he said. Norway has recently launched its first fully electric ferry connection, and ferry companies are modernizing their fleets as the Norwegian authorities have required zero-emission technology solutions for the coming years. He encouraged Greece to look into the possibilities and benefits green ferries could bring with all the islands and high number of ferry crossings every year. Norway has taken a leadership role in fighting marine pollution recently and is currently taking fast-paced measures to drive solutions to the challenge.
Mr Sturla Henriksen, head of the UN Global Compact on Ocean gave a global perspective on sustainability of the ocean space, highlighting how the industry together can set new standards that change the course of developments. “We have to acknowledge”, he underlined, “that most, if not all problems related to the oceans have their root-cause and solutions on shore. Ocean clean-up action is very important, at the same time we need to make a collective effort to stop the supply of new litter into the oceans. All plastic ever produced is still around”. “During a 10 minutes presentation like mine today”, Mr. Henriksen said, “150 tons of new plastic litter will have entered the oceans”. Mr. Henriksen was appointed Special Advisor to the United Nations Global Compact on Ocean January 1st 2018, a position he took up after a decade serving as the CEO of the Norwegian Shipowner’s Association. In his time as CEO, he has had the opportunity to interact with many of the major shipowners globally, among them Greek and is optimistic that there is a growing awareness and commitment.
Dr Angeliki Kosmopolou, Director of AC Laskaridis Charitable Foundation held a thought-provoking presentation about the history, scope and consequences of plastic pollution. Suggesting effective measures for prevention, recycling, and cleanup of plastic waste in a circular economy, she encouraged all to take action and outlined a number of suggestions for approaching the problem. The organization’s contribution to fighting marine litter involves coastal cleanups and awareness-raising workshops, shore and underwater cleanups on 10 islands, empowerment of special groups, e.g. fishermen and entrepreneurs. A success story is helping turn Sikinos into the first plastic straw free island.
Dr. Vassilios Mamaloukas Frangoulis from Environmental Protection Engineering (EPE) shed light on the effort to clean up an oil spill in the Saronic Gulf last September, while minimizing waste. He referred to his company having successfully responded to more than 2,000 marine pollution incidents that occurred over the last four decades, offering a wide range of services addressing to waste management and response to spill of oil and chemicals in the ocean. Dr. Mamaloukas Frangoulis urged the audience to fight pollution while minimizing the waste into the oceans. He too stressed the importance of communication and educational programs as tools to create awareness and change behavior.
Ms Christiana Prekezes, Executive Coordinator of HELMEPA spoke enthusiastically about the organization’s various initiatives, targeting all relevant stakeholders ranging from shipowners to mariners to Greek youth. Among many programs, the association organizes regular nationwide beach clean ups with strong participation from the young generation of Greeks. Since 1993, more than 105,000 schoolchildren members of “HELMEPA Junior” have implemented beach cleanups, participated in recycling projects and motivated their local communities throughout Greece. Ms Prekezes closed her presentation by urging all to take a pledge this summer for clean seas and beaches.
The seminar concluded with questions posed by the audience and answers offered by the panel.