Author Q&A: Iliana Christodoulou Varotsi

The shipping industry and marine pollution: an interview with Dr. Iliana Christodoulou Varotsi, author of Marine Pollution Control: Legal and Managerial Frameworks

About the Author

Dr. Iliana Christodoulou-Varotsi has been a Legal Consultant (Member of the Athens Bar Association) since 1995. In her capacity as a law drafter, she has consulted extensively on the harmonisation of domestic maritime safety and marine environment protection law to EU law. Specialising in regulatory compliance in shipping, she is an experienced Trainer working in collaboration with the Lloyd’s Maritime Academy and DNV GL. Dr Christodoulou-Varotsi is also a Visiting Lecturer at ALBA Graduate Business School at the American College of Greece. She has taught and published internationally in the area of marine pollution regulations.

Read the Interview

Marine pollution is increasingly a hot topic within the industry. With eyes on maritime activity’s impact in our oceans, we spoke to Dr. Christodoulou Varotsi, legal consultant and industry trainer.

How long have you worked with regulatory compliance?

Regulatory compliance in shipping, including marine pollution, has been central to my work as a legal consultant, law drafter and trainer for almost two decades. I had solid exposure to this area as a law drafter for a major maritime country, an experience which has made me reflect on the standard setting process and on the practical impact of marine pollution laws on private operators. My interaction with maritime professionals in my capacity as a trainer with Lloyd’s Maritime Academy and an international ship classification society has further enhanced my practical understanding of the marine pollution agenda, and made me see how demanding and cross-professional this field actually is. I have also researched into the numerous facets of regulatory compliance both from the standpoint of IMO and regional (mainly EU) instruments, and enquired for research and law drafting purposes into the role and duties of flag States, port States and private operators.Marine pollution has also captured my attention as a human element challenge.A recent illustration of my work is my book Marine Pollution Control: Legal and Managerial Frameworks published in 2018 in the Lloyd’s Practical Shipping Guides series (Informa Law from Routledge).

Why is marine pollution so important now?

71% of the Earth’s surface is covered by water. 60% of the oceans are outside national borders. Not only does the marine pollution agenda express a societal trend, it also reflects a real need for taking better care of the marine environment. While figures and statistics suggest significant progress in some areas, we have numerous challenges ahead. These challenges should be not put on the shoulders of future generations. Marine pollution agenda develops in recognition of concepts such as sustainable development and ocean governance. Even though shipping is considered to be the most environmentally efficient mode of transportation, and that marine pollution sources are for most part land-based, the shipping industry is heavily committed towards marine environment protection. In this respect, avoidance and control of marine pollution are important also because they reflect the commitment of the shipping industry towards society.

What do you think are some of the big issues that are facing the marine environment from the perspective of shipping?

The agenda is currently broad, and in some respects unsettled. It comprises substantive questions (e.g. marine pollution from plastics). It also includes strategic dilemmas for private stakeholders, such as the pros and cons of scrubbers or LNG as alternative fuel. An additional direction is how we could make smarter regulations or how could marine pollution regulations be more effectively implemented. In a nutshell, the agenda is geared towards air pollution from shipping, with the focus placed on fuels, ballast water management, ship recycling, marine pollution from plastics, the use of polar waters, etc. Even collisions between vessels and cetaceans, or under water noise present an interest to marine pollution agenda nowadays. Ocean governance and the proper implementation of existing regulations and dissemination of industry best practice are real challenges for the marine environment. We also need to consider the new challenges for the environment arising from the forthcoming use of automated shipping, including the new role of humans in digitalised shipping.

How much does marine pollution impact shipping’s day-to-day operations?

Shipping’s day-to-day operations are articulated over a myriad of rules and practices which aim at the prevention, reduction and control of marine pollution. These packages impact significantly on the budget of companies. Ranging from the prohibition or control of discharge of certain substances at sea to the regulated treatment of ballast water or the appropriate training of shipping personnel, nearly all shipping operations have an environmental dimension, and have to be done in a specific manner. No industry is an island entire of itself. How States regulate and enforce the law or how they facilitate critical infrastructure, such as port reception facilities, or undertake contingency planning in case of oil or chemical spills are also important for the environmentally successful day-to-day operations of shipping.

What do you think the shipping industry can do to help the environment?

The shipping industry should focus on qualitative implementation of standards through training and dissemination of best practice. The industry should also seek to benefit from smart regulations, i.e. regulations which are not confined to prohibiting certain behaviours but also include incentives for well performing stakeholders. The contribution of the shipping industry to the protection of the marine environment protection should also become more visible to the public.Shipping is an ally and not an enemy of the marine environment.

What’s in the future for shipping and marine pollution if action is not taken now?

There are areas where inaction or problematic implementation of standards is likely to have a price. This seems to be the case of unwanted species travelling in ballast water, or air emissions from shipping. In the former case, despite natural phenomena like currents which make living organisms move in the oceans, there is an understanding that ballast water management requires some form of control. In the case of air emissions from shipping, even though the contribution of shipping is significantly smaller than that of other means of transportation, and it has been reduced (estimated at 2.2% of the total emission volume of CO2 for 2012 as opposed to 2.7% for 2007), it is generally believed that unless this matter is dealt with impetus, shipping has the potential to become a significant polluter.

Is there an advantage of studying this area by distance learning?

Lloyd’s Maritime Academy’s Marine Pollution Prevention and Management course has been offered successfully as an online course since 2014. It has benefited from highly positive reviews from its participants, and it is constantly updated to reflect current developments. It provides the global picture of marine pollution prevention and management with special focus on key points. As a distant learning course, participants benefit from flexibility. Online learning is supported by audio-visual material. It is totally compatible with demanding working schedules and a family life, since learners can follow their own learning pace within a 3-month slot, and no travel is required. In my capacity as the director and principal author of the course, I will be happy to offer assistance and facilitate the interaction between learners, who are maritime professionals coming from all over the world.

Dr. Iliana Christodoulou-Varotsi, Athens, January 2018

See more about Marine Pollution Control: Legal and Managerial Frameworks


Marine Pollution Control

This book discusses in a concise manner the key aspects that are important for the understanding of regulations and managerial framework governing marine pollution. It identifies the practical context in which marine pollution comes into play and addresses the international legal regime governing the numerous sources of marine pollution, as well as the ways in which these regulations affect the conduct of day-to-day shipping operations. Read More

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