Home Environment GHG and sulphur 2020 on agenda at Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 73)

GHG and sulphur 2020 on agenda at Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 73)

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MEPC 73 preview 



Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC), 73rd session

Chair: Mr. Hideaki Saito (Japan)

When and where?

22-26 October 2018, at IMO Headquarters in London.

Highlights of particular interest to media include:

  • Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from ships
  • Further work on energy efficiency of ships
  • Implementation of sulphur 2020 limit
  • Marine plastic litter
  • Ballast water management treaty implementation
  • Use and carriage of heavy fuel oil as fuel by ships in Arctic waters
  • High-viscosity substances – draft MARPOL amendments

Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from ships

The MEPC is expected to develop and agree a programme of actions to implement the initial IMO strategy on reduction of GHG emissions from ships, which was adopted in April 2018.

An Intersessional Working Group, meeting the week preceding MEPC 73 (15-19 October), is expected to initiate this work and will report to the Committee.

Under the identified “levels of ambition”, the initial GHG strategy envisages a reduction in total GHG emissions from international shipping which, it says, should peak as soon as possible. Total annual GHG emissions from international shipping should be reduced by at least 50% by 2050 compared to 2008, while, at the same time, efforts should be pursued towards phasing them out entirely.

The Initial Strategy refers to a range of candidate short-, mid- and long term measures that will be considered by IMO. Short-term measures could be finalized and agreed between 2018 and 2023; mid-term measures, between 2023 and 2030; and long-term measures, beyond 2030.

Feeding in to the process towards adoption of a revised Strategy in 2023 will be the data collection system on fuel oil consumption of ships over 5,000 gross tons, which begins on 1 January 2019; and a fourth IMO GHG study, to be initiated in the first half of 2019.

Further work on energy efficiency of ships (EEDI review)

The MEPC will receive a report on progress by the correspondence group on review of the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) “beyond phase 2”. The correspondence group has submitted an interim report to MEPC 73 with a final report due to be submitted to MEPC 74 (Spring 2019), providing a recommendation on the time period and reduction rates for EEDI “phase 3” requirements. This could lead to a tightening of requirements for certain new ships.

Implementation of sulphur 2020 limit

The new lower 0.50% limit on sulphur in ships’ fuel oil will be in force from 1 January 2020, under IMO’s MARPOL treaty, with benefits for the environment and human health. The new limit will be applicable globally – while in designated emission control areas (ECAs) the limit will remain even lower, at 0.10%.

The 1 January 2020 implementation date was adopted in 2008 and confirmed by IMO in October 2016, giving certainty to refineries, bunkering and shipping sectors.

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.

Enforcement, compliance with and monitoring of the new sulphur limit is the remit and responsibility of States Party to MARPOL Annex VI. The MEPC is expected to adopt a complementary MARPOL amendment, which will prohibit the carriage of non-compliant fuel oil – unless the ship has an exhaust gas cleaning system (“scrubber”) fitted.

Adoption of this amendment would not change in any way the entry into force date of the 0.50% limit from 1 January 2020. It is intended as an additional measure to support consistent implementation and compliance and enforcement by States, particularly port State control.

Most ships are expected to utilize new blends of fuel oil which will be produced to meet the 0.50% limit on sulphur in fuel oil. Currently, the maximum sulphur limit in fuel oil is 3.50% globally (and 0.10 % in the four ECAs: the Baltic Sea area; the North Sea area; the North American area (covering designated coastal areas off the United States and Canada); and the United States Caribbean Sea area (around Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands)).

Marine plastic litter

The MEPC will consider a number of proposals 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.

The Committee is expected to develop and agree on an action plan to address marine plastic litter, and to agree on the scope of work for the relevant Sub-Committees, in particular the Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR).


Ballast water management treaty implementation

The International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments, 2004 (BWM Convention), entered into force in September 2017 and has, to date, been ratified by 77 countries, representing 77.17% of world merchant shipping tonnage. Amendments to the treaty, relating to implementation of the convention, were adopted at the last session.

The MEPC has recognized that there may be a need for future improvements to the BWM Convention in the light of experience gained.

MEPC 71 adopted the experience-building phase associated with the BWM Convention and MEPC 72 approved the data gathering and analysis plan for the EBP. Based on the experience and feedback gained, as well as the analysis of the data gathered, draft amendments to the Convention could be put forward for consideration at MEPC 79 (in 2022). The Committee will be updated on the status of preparations for data gathering and will consider how to provide the necessary support for the experience-building phase to be administered and executed.

With the Convention in force and the focus now on its effective and uniform implementation, including the experience-building phase, the Committee will consider how matters related to ballast water management should be addressed in a more structured way, through the establishment of clearly defined outputs to organize and prioritize further work.

MEPC 73 is expected to approve Guidance on System Design Limitations of ballast water management systems and their monitoring, and to consider draft Guidance on validation of the compliance of individual BWMS with regulation D-2 of the BWM Convention in conjunction with their commissioning. The inclusion of contingency measures in the ballast water management plan will also be considered.

MEPC 73 will also consider proposals for approval of ballast water management systems that make use of Active Substances.

Use and carriage of heavy fuel oil as fuel by ships in Arctic waters

IMO has agreed that its Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR) should develop a ban on heavy fuel oil for use and carriage as fuel by ships in Arctic waters, based on an assessment of the impacts of such a ban.

MEPC 73 will consider, with a view to approval, an appropriate impact assessment methodology process.

Currently, the use and carriage of heavy fuel oil is banned in the Antarctic under MARPOL Annex I regulation 43. It is recommended in the Polar Code that the same rules are applied in the Arctic waters.

MARPOL amendments – high-viscosity substances

The MEPC is expected to consider approving, for future adoption, draft amendments to MARPOL Annex II to strengthen, in specified sea areas, discharge requirements for tank washings containing persistent floating products with a high-viscosity and/or a high melting point that can solidify under certain conditions (e.g. certain vegetable oils and paraffin-like cargoes). The draft amendments follow concerns about the environmental impact of permissible discharges of such products and would tighten requirements for the discharge from ships of tank washings containing such product.

Approval of guidance and other matters     

Amongst other matters, the MEPC is expected to:

  • Adopt the draft 2018 Guidelines for the discharge of exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) bleed-off water.
  • Approve (for adoption in 2019) draft amendments to the International Code for the Construction and Equipment of Ships carrying Dangerous Chemicals in Bulk (IBC Code), including the draft revised chapters 17 (Summary of minimum requirements), 18 (List of products to which the code does not apply), 19 (Index of Products Carried in Bulk) and 21 (Criteria for assigning carriage requirements for products subject to the IBC Code).
  • Approve a draft MEPC circular on Guidelines for the carriage of energy-rich fuels and their blends.
  • Approve the draft part IV of the Guidelines for the use of dispersants for combating oil pollution at sea, which focuses on the sub-sea application of dispersant.
  • Approve, for subsequent adoption, draft Guidelines for the use of electronic record books under MARPOL and associated draft amendments to MARPOL and the NOX Technical Code.

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