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AUSMEPA Article in the September Issue of Shipping Australia titled Stressing the need to protect the marine environment - The role of the Australian Marine Environment Protection Association

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Stressing the need to protect the marine environment – The role of the Australian Marine Environment Protection Association (AUSMEPA)

by MICHAEL JULIAN, Executive Director, AUSMEPA.

The Australian Marine Environment Protection Association (AUSMEPA) was launched on 13 July 2000 at Newstead House; (Brisbane’s oldest surviving residence dating from 1846), on the banks of the Brisbane River. A declaration of a voluntary commitment ‘to save the seas’ was signed by a number of individuals representing a wide range of shipping industry, government and non government organisations who were committed to protecting Australia’s precious marine environment.

Goals set for AUSMEPA included:

  • instilling an increased marine environmental consciousness and awareness in Australians by means of education, information and publicity;
  • establishing a visible presence in the Australian school system so that future generations of Australians are aware of the need to protect the marine environment;
  • acting as a positive, independent voice about marine environmental concerns;
  • publicly recognising particular achievements and/or contributions by individuals or organisations towards protecting and improving the marine environment;
  • assisting those that have been shown through irrefutable evidence to have caused pollution or other degradation of the marine environment, to adopt environmentally responsible procedures and operations.

One year later AUSMEPA was incorporated under the Queensland Association Incorporations Act 1981 and was endorsed as an income tax exempt (not-for-profit) charitable entity under the Commonwealth Income Assessment Act 1997 entitling it to receive tax deductible donations.

An AUSMEPA Board of Directors was established and operating rules drawn up providing guidance on how the Association should operate. Funding was and still remains based on individual or company membership, corporate sponsorship and public donations.

More recently AUSMEPA widened its goals to include assisting the shipping industry in achieving environmental sustainability and in enhancing the industry’s ‘clean and green’ reputation among the community.

Since its inception AUSMEPA has strived to meet its main goals of marine environmental education and awareness through two avenues; school education programs and seafarer education.

Because of AUSMEPA’s limited size and funding and with a potential audience of teachers and students in Australia’s 10,000 schools as well as seafarers in thousands of ships operating in and out of Australia’s ports, it was determined the most effective means of delivery of its education programs would be to use modern technology including interactive programs on the internet, high visual impact posters, CDs and DVDs.

Education programs for teachers and students

The philosophy behind AUSMEPA’s school education program is to provide interesting yet challenging activities for students to undertake and to learn from.

AUSMEPA provides free educational resources to schools that stimulate student learning about the marine environment, the importance of the sustainability of the seas and oceans for all users whether they are commercial users such as the shipping, port or fishing industries or recreational users such as the boating and sailing community. Each user has a responsibility to protect the marine environment for future generations.

AUSMEPA’s Education resources for use in schools provide the opportunity to:

  • encourage school involvement and interest in the marine environment and its conservation by creating opportunities for school and community groups;
  • introduce students to the world of ships, ports and other maritime industries;
  • concentrate on a wide variety of marine conservation and fun activities such as awareness of the marine environment, practical conservation, climate change etc;
  • provide leadership opportunities and creating non-competitive activities;

Free educational resources are provided at the primary and secondary school level, each program is designed around core curriculum science units, information about each education program is available on the AUSMEPA website

Primary Student Level

For primary school students the establishment of a ‘Kids Marine Club’ is suggested. These clubs allow young children to take an active role within their local community by undertaking interesting investigations and activities aimed at protecting the marine environment. Both coastal and inland activities are provided on the reverse side of a set of four project posters which are mailed to schools on request.

Kids Marine Club Posters:

  • Our beach – their backyard
  • Sea creatures at risk
  • Club competitions
  • Working at sea.

Secondary Student Level

For secondary or high school students the free education resources are provided on the internet on AUSMEPA’s website. Each educational program consists of two essential elements. Firstly, the learning mode with a number of webpages providing essential information about a topic as well as web links to other websites to obtain further information. Secondly, a downloadable teacher manual is provided with curriculum notes, student activities and assignments the teacher can set.

The AUSMEPA secondary education programs are designed for middle year students. Each has a student learning focus using the web pages provided by AUSMEPA, the programs are produced so the teacher coordinates the students’ learning; there is little need for instruction by the teacher.

The activities and assignments provided in the teacher manual require students to use the program’s web pages to research the topic. The web pages have been designed to encourage students who may be reluctant to read. The pages have an appropriate literacy design with no more 200 words per page with a suitably sized text many colourful illustrations support the text.

To date there are three education programs available on the AUSMEPA website:

  • Marine Pests and Threats, which deals with ballast water, hull fouling and marine debris
  • The Effects of Climate Change on Coral Bleaching
  • Stormwater Pollution, which emphasises that the majority of pollution in the sea does not come from ships but from the land

Two new education programs, the first titled Ships and the marine environment and the second; Ports and the marine environment will be launched in the coming weeks. These programs introduce students to the need for ships and ports, the role they play in the transportation of goods. Most importantly the programs stress what ships and ports do to ensure their operations do not cause marine pollution or harm to the marine environment.

Life on board ship

On the AUSMEPA website a link is provided to the UK Marine Society and Sea Cadets website titled ‘Webships’ which traces the progress and on board happenings of one of BP Shipping’s newest vessels, the LNG carrier British Trader. Updates are provided by regular email despatches with photographs taken on board. Members of the crew are introduced and explain what life is really like on board ship. Information from the ship is supplemented by content that links directly to the UK’s national curriculum for 11 to 16 year old students.

Seafarer Education

In 2005 AUSMEPA and AMSA jointly produced the DVD Welcome to Australia protecting the marine the marine environment. The DVD describes the importance of Australia’s unique marine environment in particular the Great Barrier Reef. The DVD also reminds ship masters and their crews of the international regulations under MARPOL with which they must comply. The DVD can be viewed in five languages; Chinese, English, Filipino, Greek and Spanish. The DVD received international recognition by a wide range of shipping interests including P & I Clubs.

With the help of SAL and its member agencies a copy of the DVD is placed on every ship when it first arrives in Australia. Over 3,000 DVDs have been placed on ships. A further 500 have recently been produced to tie us over until an updated version of the DVD can be produced, hopefully by early 2009.

Ship membership schemes

In early 2006 the AUSMEPA ship membership scheme was introduced to recognise quality international Australian and foreign ships trading to Australia with a high safety and environmental record. Owners and operators of quality ships often take steps beyond the requirements of the international conventions to ensure maximum environmental protection, AUSMEPA wanted to provide an opportunity for this practice to be recognised.

To be approved as an AUSMEPA ship member the owner or operator needs to make an application and demonstrate that their ship meets AUSMEPA’s safety and environmental criteria. Once approved and the membership fee is paid, the ship is issued with an AUSMEPA certificate and flag.

All ship members are entered in the AUSMEPA ship fleet on Right Ship Pty. Ltd’s data base. This enables AUSMEPA to monitor port State control inspections undertaken on member ships anywhere in the world, thereby satisfying ourselves that each ship member continues to maintain its high safety and environmental record.

Information about the scheme and a list of ship members is provided on the AUSMEPA website.

AUSMEPA is in the process of introducing a similar scheme for domestic ships that come under State/NT regulatory agencies survey.

Corporate sponsorship, membership and donations

As mentioned earlier AUSMEPA’s main source of funding is through corporate sponsorship, membership fees and donations to the AUSMEPA Public Fund. Three levels of sponsorship are available; Gold at $5,000, Silver at $2,000 and Bronze at $1,000. Sponsors are listed on the AUSMEPA website with a direct link from their logo to their own website. Membership is $50. Application forms can be downloaded from the AUSMEPA website.

AUSMEPA’s recent approach to shipping companies and to ports to sponsor its two new education programs; Ships and the Marine Environment and Ports and the Marine Environment, has proved popular. This allows a company or port to be directly linked to an AUSMEPA activity.

AUSMEPA environmental award

In 2006 AUSMEPA introduced its environment award to recognise and promote achievements, innovation and best practice in minimising marine pollution and the protection of the marine environment. The AUSMEPA Environmental Award can be awarded to individuals, community groups, businesses and government agencies or departments.


AUSMEPA’s structure consists of a Board and an Advisory Committee consisting representatives from the shipping industry, academia, business as well as state and commonwealth maritime agencies. The day to day operation is undertaken by the Executive Director (a voluntary position). An environmental education specialist is contracted to produce the marine environment education programs and an education officer is contracted on a part time basis to promote AUSMEPA’s education programs to Australia’s school community and other related activities.

For more information about AUSMEPA please go to the website or email or telephone 02 6254 2559.