The Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) met for its 68th session from 11 to 15 May 2015.
The MEPC adopted the environmental requirements of the Polar Code and associated MARPOL amendments to make the Code mandatory; adopted amendments to MARPOL related to tanks for oil residues; designated an extension to the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA); and furthered its work on implementation of air pollution and energy efficiency measures and the Ballast Water Management Convention.
Polar Code environmental requirements adopted
The MEPC adopted the environmental requirements of the International Code for ships operating in polar waters (Polar Code), and the associated MARPOL amendments to make the Code mandatory, following the adoption of the safety part of the Code by the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) in November 2014. The Polar Code is expected to enter into force on 1 January 2017.
The newly-adopted environmental provisions cover:
• Prevention of pollution by oil: discharge into the sea of oil or oily mixtures from any ship is prohibited. Oil fuel tanks must be separated from outer shell;
• Prevention of pollution by noxious liquid substances: discharge into the sea of noxious liquid substances, or mixtures containing such substances is prohibited;
• Prevention of pollution by sewage; discharge of sewage is prohibited unless performed in line with MARPOL Annex IV and requirements in the Polar Code; and
• Prevention of pollution by garbage: discharge of garbage is restricted and only permitted in accordance with MARPOL Annex V and requirements in the Polar Code
MARPOL Annex I amendments relating to oil residues adopted
The MEPC adopted amendments to regulation 12 of MARPOL Annex I, concerning tanks for oil residues (sludge). The amendments update and revise the regulation, expanding on the requirements for discharge connections and piping to ensure oil residues are properly disposed of.
Extension of Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait PSSA adopted
The MEPC adopted a resolution to extend the eastern limit of the current Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA) to encompass the south-west part of the Coral Sea, part of Australia’s Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve (CMR), a remote ocean ecosystem which provides refuge for a wide range of threatened, migratory and commercially valuable species.
Proposed associated protective measures in the form of new shipping routes and an area to be avoided, aimed at reducing the risk of ship collisions and groundings by separating opposing traffic streams, whilst ensuring ships keep clear of reefs, shoals and islets, have already been agreed by IMO’s Sub-Committee on Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue (NCSR) in March and were submitted to MSC 95 in June for adoption.
Ballast Water Management status and technologies reviewed
The MEPC reviewed the status of the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments (BWM Convention), 2004, which is close to receiving sufficient ratifications to meet the remaining entry into force criterion (tonnage). The number of Contracting Governments is currently 44, representing 32.86% of the world’s merchant fleet tonnage.
The BWM Convention will enter into force 12 months after the date on which not fewer than 30 States, the combined merchant fleets of which constitute not less than 35% of the world’s gross tonnage, have ratified it.
The MEPC followed up the resolution on Measures to be taken to facilitate entry into force of the BWM Convention adopted by MEPC 67, including the agreed review of the Guidelines for approval of ballast water management systems (G8), and considered the interim report of the Correspondence Group on the review of the Guidelines. The Correspondence Group was re-established to continue working on the review.
A “Roadmap for the implementation of the BWM Convention” was agreed, which emphasises that early movers, i.e. ships which install ballast water management systems approved in accordance with the current Guidelines (G8), should not be penalized. The Roadmap invites the Committee to develop guidance on contingency measures and to expand the trial period associated with the Guidance on ballast water sampling and analysis (BWM.2/Circ.42) into an experience-building phase.
The Committee developed draft amendments to regulation B-3 of the BWM Convention to reflect Assembly resolution A.1088(28) on application of the Convention, with a view to approval at MEPC 69 and consideration for adoption once the treaty enters into force. The draft amendments will provide an appropriate timeline for ships to comply with the ballast water performance standard prescribed in regulation D-2 of the Convention.
The Committee received a progress report on a study, initiated by MEPC 67, on the implementation of the ballast water performance standard described in regulation D-2 of the BWM Convention. The study is being executed by the IMO Secretariat in partnership with the World Maritime University (WMU), and an online survey has been launched. The final study report will be submitted to MEPC 69, scheduled for April 2016.
Further ballast water management systems that make use of active substances were granted Basic Approval (five systems) and Final Approval (one system), following consideration of the reports of the 30th and 31st meetings of the Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environment Protection (GESAMP) Ballast Water Working Group.
Further development of energy-efficiency guidelines for ships
The MEPC continued its work on further developing guidelines to assist in the implementation of the mandatory energy-efficiency regulations for international shipping and:
• adopted amendments to update the 2014 Guidelines on survey and certification of the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) and endorsed their application from 1 September 2015, at the same time encouraging earlier application;
• adopted amendments to the 2013 Interim Guidelines for determining minimum propulsion power to maintain the manoeuvrability of ships in adverse conditions, for the level-1 minimum power lines assessment for bulk carriers and tankers, and agreed on a phase-in period of six months for the application of the amendments; and
• adopted amendments to update the 2014 Guidelines on the method of calculation of the attained EEDI for new ships.
EEDI review work to continue
The Committee considered a progress report from the correspondence group established to review the status of technological developments relevant to implementing phase 2 of the EEDI regulations, as required under regulation 21.6 of MARPOL Annex VI and re-established the correspondence group to further the work and submit an interim report to MEPC 69.
Text agreed for further development of a data collection system to analyse the energy efficiency of ships
The MEPC agreed text for further development as the full language for a data collection system for fuel consumption of ships, which can be readily used for voluntary or mandatory application of the system. In this regard, the Committee noted that a purpose of the data collection system was to analyse energy efficiency and for this analysis to be effective some transport work data needs to be included, but at this stage the appropriate parameters have not been identified.
The proposed text refers to ships of 5,000 GT and above collecting data, to include the ship identification number, technical characteristics, total annual fuel consumption by fuel type and in metric tons and transport work and/or proxy data yet to be defined. The methodology for collecting the data would be outlined in the ship specific Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan (SEEMP).
Data would be aggregated into an annual figure and reported by the shipowner/operator to the Administration (flag State) which would submit the data to IMO for inclusion in a database. Access to the database would be restricted to Member States only and data would be made anonymous.
The MEPC agreed to recommend to the IMO Council the holding of an intersessional working group in September 2015 to: further consider transport work and/or proxies for inclusion in the data collection system; further consider the issue of confidentiality; consider the development of guidelines identified in the text; and to submit a report to MEPC 69.
GHG reduction target for international shipping considered
The MEPC considered a submission from the Marshall Islands, calling for a quantifiable reduction target for greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping.
During the discussion, the Member States that spoke acknowledged and recognised the importance of the issues raised by the Marshall Islands and also recognised that, despite the measures already taken by the Organization regarding the reduction of emissions from ships, more could be done.
However, whilst expressing gratitude to the Marshall Islands for the submission, the Committee took the view that the priority at this stage should be to continue its current work, in particular the finalization of a mechanism for the collection of data to accurately measure emissions from ships. The Marshall Islands proposal could then be further addressed at an appropriate future session of the Committee. The need to consider the proposal further was recognised and the Committee also looked forward to a successful UN climate change conference (UNFCCC COP 21 meeting) in Paris later this year.
Revised air pollution guidance and requirements agreed
The MEPC considered a number of amendments and revisions to existing guidance and requirements related to air pollution measures and in particular:
• adopted amendments to the 2009 Guidelines for exhaust gas cleaning systems (resolution MEPC.184(59)). The amendments relate to certain aspects of emission testing, regarding measurements of carbon dioxide (CO2) and sulphur dioxide (SO2), clarification of the washwater discharge pH limit testing criteria and the inclusion of a calculation-based methodology for verification as an alternative to the use of actual measurements;
• approved, for adoption at MEPC 69, draft amendments to the NOX Technical Code 2008 to facilitate the testing of gas-fuelled engines and dual fuel engines for NOx Tier III strategy;
• approved, for adoption at MEPC 69, draft amendments to MARPOL Annex VI regarding record requirements for operational compliance with NOX Tier III emission control areas;
• approved Guidance on the application of regulation 13 of MARPOL Annex VI Tier III requirements to dual fuel and gas-fuelled engines; and
• adopted amendments to the 2011 Guidelines addressing additional aspects to the NOX Technical Code 2008 with regard to particular requirements related to marine diesel engines fitted with Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) Systems (resolution MEPC.198(62)).
The Committee also agreed, for consistency and safety reasons, to proceed with the development of guidelines for the sampling and verification of fuel oil used on board ships.
Sulphur review to be initiated this year
The MEPC agreed terms of reference for the review, required under regulation 14 (Sulphur Oxides (SOx) and Particulate Matter) of MARPOL Annex VI, of the availability of compliant fuel oil to meet the global requirements that the sulphur content of fuel oil used on board ships shall not exceed 0.50% m/m on and after 1 January 2020. The IMO Secretariat was requested to initiate the review by 1 September 2015, with a view to the final report of the fuel oil availability review being submitted to MEPC 70 (autumn 2016) as the appropriate information to inform the decision to be taken by the Parties to MARPOL Annex VI.
A Steering Committee consisting of 13 Member States, one intergovernmental organisation and six international non-governmental organizations was established to oversee the review.
The sulphur content (expressed in terms of % m/m – that is, by weight) of fuel oil used on board ships is required to be a maximum of 3.50% m/m (outside an Emission Control Area (ECA)), falling to 0.50% m/m on and after 1 January 2020. Depending on the outcome of the review, this requirement could be deferred to 1 January 2025. Within ECAs, fuel oil sulphur content must be no more than 0.10% m/m.
Fuel oil quality correspondence group re-established
The MEPC considered the report of the correspondence group established to consider possible quality control measures prior to fuel oil being delivered to a ship. The correspondence group was re-established to: further develop draft guidance on best practice for assuring the quality of fuel oil delivered for use on board ships; further examine the adequacy of the current legal framework in MARPOL Annex VI for assuring the quality of fuel oil for use on board ships; and submit a report to MEPC 69.
Black carbon definition agreed
The MEPC agreed a definition for Black Carbon emissions from international shipping, based on the “Bond et al.” definition which describes Black Carbon as a distinct type of carbonaceous material, formed only in flames during combustion of carbon-based fuel, distinguishable from other forms of carbon and carbon compounds contained in atmospheric aerosol because of its unique physical properties.
Ship recycling convention - revision of IHM Guidelines
The MEPC adopted the 2015 Guidelines for the development of the Inventory of Hazardous Materials (IHM), The IHM is required under the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships, 2009 (the treaty is not yet in force).
Oil spill response guidance approved
The MEPC approved two sets of guidelines to assist in oil spill response, developed by the Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR):
Guidelines on international offers of assistance in response to a marine oil pollution incident – intended as a tool to assist in managing requests for spill response resources and offers for assistance from other countries and organizations when confronted with large, complex or significant oil spill incidents.
Guidelines for the use of dispersants for combating oil pollution at sea - Part III (Operational and technical sheets for surface application of dispersants). Parts I (Basic information) and II (National policy) of the IMO Dispersant Guidelines have already been approved and will be published together with Part III. Part IV, covering sub-sea dispersant application, is under development and will take into account the experience gained from the Deepwater Horizon incident as well as other related technical developments.
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