Key Takeaways from IMO’s MEPC 73

(Image Courtesy: Cambiaso Risso Group)

The IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 73) will conclude on Friday October 26). On Monday, the MEPC moved ahead with its work to deliver the IMO initial strategy on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from ships, approving a programme of follow-up actions. A working group on GHG reduction continued discussions, including the scope of the fourth IMO GHG study.

The Committee addressed the implementation of the 0.50% sulphur limit. From 1 January 2020, the limit for sulphur in fuel oil used on board ships operating outside designated emission control areas will be reduced to 0.50% m/m (mass by mass).

This will significantly reduce the amount of sulphur oxides emanating from ships and should have major health and environmental benefits. IMO has been working with Member States and the industry to support implementation of the new limit.

MEPC 73 is expected to approve ship implementation planning guidance as well as best practice guides for Member States/coastal States and for fuel oil suppliers. The Committee is also expected to adopt an amendment to prohibit the carriage of non-compliant fuel oil (except when ships are fitted with measures such as exhaust gas cleaning systems or “scrubbers”).

MEPC 73 Agenda

The ​Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 73) has approved a programme of actions to deliver the initial strategy on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from ships.

Marine plastic litter is another key agenda item. The Committee is expected to develop and agree an action plan to address the issue of marine plastic litter from shipping, in the context of 2030 Sustainable Development Goal 14 (SDG 14) on the oceans.

A number of proposals have been put forward for consideration, covering issues such as a proposed study on the state of marine plastic litter; looking into the availability and adequacy of port reception facilities; looking at marking and retrieval of fishing gear; reporting the loss of fishing gear and containers; facilitating the delivery of retrieved fishing gear or passively-fished waste to shore facilities; reviewing training; raising awareness; and strengthening international cooperation.

IMO rejects ‘experience building phase’ for 2020 sulphur cap

International Maritime Organization member states on Wednesday rejected a proposal for an initial “experience building phase” for the implementation of its tighter sulphur limit for marine fuels, despite last-minute support from the US.

The proposal, referred to a buffer time to permit all stakeholders (such as ship operators, engine manufacturers, refineries, bunker suppliers, recognised organisations, Member States and observer organisations) to provide input on an inclusive IMO process that would enable the current challenging regulatory requirements to be safely addressed without unduly penalising individual ships, according to a draft of the document.

The proposal, first submitted by the Bahamas, the Marshall Islands, Liberia, Panama and various shipping associations, was later supported by the US. It was finally rejected at the end of Wednesday’s session of the MEPC meeting.

While proponents of this measure defended it as a data-gathering exercise that would assist with robust implementation of the tighter sulphur cap in 2020, some of its detractors saw it as an attempt to tone down the regulation.

(Image Courtesy: Marine Urea)

France calls for Mediterranean Emission Control Area

France presented the results of its impact assessment of a possible emission control area (ECA) in the Mediterranean Sea aimed at the reduction of harmful ship emissions. The findings shows that a combined ECA which addresses sulphur and nitrogen oxides at the same time has the greatest positive effect in terms of reduced air pollutant concentrations as well as corresponding socio-economic and ecological benefits. Environmentalists welcomed the report and renewed their call for the immediate designation of all European waters and particularly the Mediterranean Sea as emission control area for international shipping.

Sönke Diesener, transport policy officer at Germany-based organisation NABU said: “The results are unambiguous; an ECA would result in cleaner and healthier air for the residents in Mediterranean countries. Moreover, the effects for the economy will be positive. Every day six to ten thousand ships are operating in the region while they burn toxic heavy fuel oil. Now we need the cooperation of littoral states to facilitate a Mediterranean ECA at the International Maritime Organisation.”

The impact assessment had been presented by France at the International Maritime Organisation during a side event of the Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC) meeting while the full report will officially be published in the next days. The European Commission and the Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Response Centre for the Mediterranean Sea (REMPEC) are currently also commissioning respective studies to assess the impact of ECAs in the Mediterranean Sea. In a next step a coalition of Mediterranean countries will have to submit an application to the MEPC which asks for SOx, NOx and particle emission limits for international ships in the Mediterranean Sea.

(Image Courtesy: Asia Nikkei)

Arctic ban on heavy fuel oil

The Arctic is warming at an accelerating rate and as sea ice continues to melt away, Arctic waters are becoming increasingly navigable to vessels carrying heavy fuel oil (HFO). HFO, which is one of the world’s dirtiest fuels, is not only virtually impossible to clean up in the event of a spill, but also produces higher levels of air and climate pollutants than other marine fuels. Given the severe risks that heavy fuel oil poses to polar environments, the international shipping community has already banned its use in the Antarctic. There are demands from several quarters to provide the Arctic, an ecosystem that is equally vulnerable to disturbance and pollution, with similar protection.

With this agenda, the Clean Arctic Alliance called on member states to “renew their commitment” so that a ban on the use and carriage of polluting heavy fuel oil from Arctic shipping can be adopted in 2021.

At MEPC 72, in April 2018, the majority of IMO members agreed in principle to this ban. Heavy fuel oil (HFO) is back on the agenda this week, when MEPC 73 is examining an impact assessment methodology ahead of sending the “Scope of Work”, which sets out the work to be done to reduce the risks associated with the “use and carriage of heavy fuel oil as fuel by ships in Arctic waters” including the proposal for a ban, to a sub-committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR6) in February 2019.

IMO and the Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, 193 countries adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

This Agenda calls for action by all countries to eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable development by 2030 world-wide – and the SDGs are seen as an opportunity to transform the world for the better and leave no one behind.

As part of the United Nations family, IMO is actively working towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the associated SDGs. Indeed, most of the elements of the 2030 Agenda will only be realised with a sustainable transport sector supporting world trade and facilitating global economy. IMO’s Technical Cooperation Committee has formally approved linkages between the Organization’s technical assistance work and the SDGs.

(References: HFO-Free Arctic, S&P Global Platts, NABU, FNE, IMO)

Sea News Feature, October 25

Baibhav Mishra
Author: Baibhav Mishra