At the latest session of the International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 68) from 11 to 15 May the committee faced many challenges; from ballast water management, to global fuel availability in the face of stringent global emissions control areas, and a challenge from islands in the Pacific to introduce a global limit on CO2 for international shipping. BLUE outlines five key decisions taken by the committee.
- New steering group to determine low sulphur fuel availability/assurance on fuel quality: The new group will study the availability of MARPOL Annex VI compliant low sulphur fuel and present its findings at MEPC70. Using the results, the committee will decide whether the global 0.50% sulphur cap should take effect in 2020, or if insufficient supply of suitable fuel or other solutions means the global cap should be delayed until 2025. In conjunction with this, based on widespread industry concern over fuel quality, the Correspondence Group will further develop draft guidance for assuring the quality of fuel oil delivered, as well as scrutinising whether the existing legal framework within MARPOL Annex VI, which assures the quality is adequate and fit for purpose.
- Energy efficiency priortised, but global CO2 limit is rejected: Although MEPC acknowledged the need for further technical and operational measures to enhance energy efficiency and further reduce emissions, the committee stopped short of adopting a proposal by islands in the Pacific to introduce a limit on international shipping’s CO2 Meanwhile, work continued on the IMO’s data collection system for vessel fuel consumption with a number of key decisions taken including: agreement on the technical characteristics to be collected from ships, ship owner responsibility for providing data and the provision of data reporting for a 12 month fixed term. Discussions on the integration of travel parameters into energy efficiency calculations continue and the committee has not yet decided if the system will be mandatory or voluntary
- Ballast water ‘early movers’ reassured, amid frustration at slow ratification: Concerns were expressed over the slow progress of the ratification of the Ballast Water Management Convention, which has only been ratified by two member states since MEPC67. The committee announced a roadmap to support implementation of the convention including non-penalisation for ‘early movers’ who occasionally exceed the D-2 standard (on water discharge quality), provided their vessel’s self-monitoring system indicates that the treatment process is working properly.
- Green light for Polar Code: MEPC adopted the Polar Code, which places new safety and environmental regulations on those vessels trading in the polar region. Additionally, MEPC progressed plans to assess the impact of black carbon emissions on the Arctic by approving Bond et al’s black carbon definition. No control measures for black carbon were discussed at this stage.
- Baltic Sea Special Area approved: The Baltic Sea was approved as a Special Area, meaning ports and terminals that border the ocean must provide passenger ships with facilities for the reception of sewage. The dates for adoption of the Special Area are: new passenger ships, on or after 1 June 2019, and existing passenger vessels, on or after 1 June 2012
The next meeting of the committee, MEPC69, is scheduled for April 2016.