Israel has agreed to undertake a voluntary audit from the International Maritime
Organization at the end of 2012, and in doing so, will join Turkey as the first
non- EU countries in the Mediterranean region to allow the global body to
evaluate how the country is complying with its commitments to sea pollution
prevention and nautical safety, officials said at a meeting on Tuesday afternoon
at the Transportation Ministry.
In preparation for the future audit, a
strategy workshop was also held in Jerusalem that morning for senior officials
from various government ministries led by Albert Bergonzo, project officer of a
regional program called SafeMed II.
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The program, which aims to foster
cooperation among non-EU Mediterranean countries, is a section of the Maltabased
Maritime Administration of the Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Response
Center for the Mediterranean Sea (REMPEC), part of the International Maritime
Organization as well as the United Nations Environment Program.
II, which was preceded by a SafeMed I program from 2006-2008, has a 5.5 million
euro budget provided by the European Union, and includes Algeria, Egypt, Israel,
the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia and
“We have regional activities and in these activities we invite
representatives from all the beneficiaries,” Bergonzo said, noting that SafeMed
is a multilateral cooperation project.
“Since we are working on a
technical subject it works quite well, but it’s true of course we are aware of
what is going on in the region. It’s one more motivation to make things move
In order to ensure a safe and thriving Mediterranean, while
SafeMed requires the cooperation of many otherwise disparate countries, the
project does not force each nation to abide by exactly the same protocols,
according to Bergonzo.
“An international convention will not go into each
and every detail of how things should be done – what is important is the
result,” he said. “For example, the MARPOL [the International Convention for the
Prevention of Pollution From Ships, 1973 as modified by the Protocol of 1978]
will say that you need to have a system of penalties to be able to prosecute
offenders, but it will not tell you exactly what is a concrete result of
The audit that Israel will soon undergo – which 26 other countries
around the world have already completed – will assess just how effectively the
system here is performing, according to Bergonzo.
The audit will check 10
“conventions” that have become standard according to International Maritime
Organization protocol, including safety of life at sea, MARPOL maritime
pollution and Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) for
seafarers, explained Jens Schroeder- Hinrichs, a consultant for Israel’s audit
from admaris GmbH, based in Hamburg, Germany.
“They regulate the safety
standards for the ships, they regulate how pollution resulting from ships should
be avoided and how you qualify seafarers to act in a responsible way,”
A wide range of Israeli ministries will need to
be involved in the process, with the Shipping and Ports Authority of the
Transportation Ministry “running the show,” according to Capt. Yigal Maor,
director of the Israeli Maritime Administration and directorgeneral of the
Shipping and Ports Authority.
Maor said the government formally decided
to volunteer for the audit about a year ago.
“The problem is that when
the auditing becomes compulsory, the sanctions against you will be taken
immediately,” he added, noting the audit will be compulsory in 2014. “Here, we
will still have a chance to rectify and improve the situation.”
fall, Israel will undergo a test phase of the audit, just to get a “taste” of
what the full version will be like a year later, Maor said. Meanwhile,
Schroeder-Hinrichs is currently conducting a training course with government
officials in Acre to brief them on the requirements of the audit.
is exceptionally good for us and will also facilitate everything that has to do
with marine environmental legislation procedures, identifying any gaps in that
manner,” said Ran Amir, director of the Marine and Coastal Environment Division
in the Environmental Protection Ministry.
Maor commended Amir’s division
for conducting monthly checks as to Israel’s preparedness to withstand
contamination and also emphasized monitoring ship safety is crucial to the
environment, as “with bad safety at sea there is pollution” – caused by ship
“Israel sits on the eastern side of the Mediterranean, so all
pollution beginning in Gibraltar will end up on the Israeli shore,” Maor said.
“The Mediterranean is the most traffic-filled maritime lane in the world. Thirty
percent of world maritime trade is moving 60 kilometers from the shores of
All the participants in the meeting concluded that choosing to
be part of the maritime audit can be nothing but positive for
“Volunteering for the audit shows that your administration is
open, it is transparent, it is willing to be examined by people from the
outside,” Bergonzo said. “The fact that you accept to commit yourself for this
audit is very good sign for the international maritime community.”
agreed. “We are completely transparent and we shall demonstrate in the audit
that despite some feelings in the outside world, Israel is not hiding
This is going to significantly improve the attitude toward the
State of Israel.”