Much work done at MEPC 74; still more to do

Paul Gunton

Paul Gunton · 21 May 2019


As the 74th meeting of IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 74) closed on Friday (17 May), delegates began to think about the implications of what they had decided during a busy week of debate and working groups.

IMO secretary-general Kitack Lim acknowledged the amount of work in his summing-up address to the meeting, in which he set out a few of its achievements.

Among the details he highlighted was its work to support the consistent implementation of the 0.50% sulphur limit, for which he said the secretariat will hold a roundtable meeting in June “with representatives from across stakeholders to review progress and share information” to be followed by a seminar at IMO in Q3 this year.

He also summarised its discussions on IMO’s Initial Strategy on reduction of GHG, during which it finalised a procedure to assess the impacts on member states of the possible measures. Specifically on EEDI, Mr Lim said that the conference had “strengthened the energy efficiency framework by bringing forward the entry into effect date of Phase 3 to 2022 for several ship types and enhancing the EEDI reduction rate for containerships.

He also noted that the meeting had approved draft amendments to the Ballast Water Management Convention, including the commissioning testing of ballast water management systems. Another pollution-related theme from the meeting that he highlighted was its discussions about marine plastic litter, including the terms of reference for an IMO study. Some progress was also made on developing a strategy to address marine plastic litter from ships.

Industry response to the meeting has been positive, in particular from the International Chamber of Shipping, which welcomed its decisions on EEDI.

Not so enthusiastic was the Clean Arctic Alliance, which released a statement on Friday evening expressing its frustration over what is described as “Member states’ failure to address the risk to the Arctic from emissions of black carbon from international shipping.” It was referring to a proposal by the Clean Shipping Coalition – which has observer status at IMO – and Clean Arctic Alliance member Pacific Environment for ships to stop using HFO immediately because of its black carbon emissions, which was not taken up.

It did acknowledge, however, that there was “some consolation that, as the meeting closed, it was agreed that concrete proposals should be put forward for consideration at [the next meeting of the Pollution Prevent and Response Sub-Committee] PPR 7 in February 2020.”

ShipInsight attended much of MEPC’s plenary sessions and on Friday its working groups – which are not open to observers – reported back to the main meeting. Their reports resolved the topics that our reports had focussed on in our reporting of the first three days of the conference.

First, in a commentary published last Tuesday (14 May), we mentioned a difference of opinion over a detail that had reached the committee from PPR 6 that related to the margin of error in testing as-delivered fuel samples. Under the proposal, if a test result showed a sample’s sulphur content exceeded 0.5% it would fail. This contrasted with tests of in-service samples, for which a second sample to be checked.

This was referred to the Working Group on Air Pollution and Energy Efficiency, which submitted draft amendments to MARPOL Annex VI that have resulted in a common approach being taken for all sample tests that take account of the potential margin of error – effectively overturning the PPR 6 proposal.

Our report published last Wednesday outlined a number of points that had been referred to a working group that was tasked to consider, among other things, proposals to amend the Ballast Water Management Convention’s Regulation E-1, which relates to commissioning testing. When its report came back to the plenary session, it was agreed to amend the convention in that way, with a view to it being adopted at MEPC 75. However, the committee agreed that testing should begin as soon as possible, without waiting for that amendment formally to come into force.

Speed was a headline topic for MEPC 74. The Working Group on Reduction of GHG emissions from ships considered a number of proposed approaches for short-term measures to achieve this. One of those was to “develop a speed optimisation and speed reduction mechanism” but the working group proposed that this should be considered along with other approaches with a view to developing draft amendments to MARPOL Annex VI.

The working group asked MEPC to ‘note’ its discussion and this will be taken up at the sixth and seventh Intercessional Working Groups on reduction of GHG emissions from ships, which are both due to take place before MEPC 75.

For summaries of all of MEPC 74’s outcomes, read IMO’s report here.

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