Delegates at this week’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 73) meeting at IMO’s headquarters in London seem set to approve a proposal for an ‘experience building phase’ (EBP) to be established when the 2020 sulphur cap comes into force.
The week-long gathering is well behind schedule, with discussion on that and other air pollution and energy efficiency topics originally listed as the first topic on the agenda for Tuesday. In fact, nearly half of Monday’s agenda had been held over to Day 2 and by the end of that day only six of 20 items listed for the week had been completed.
MEPC chairman Hideaki Saito paused discussion on the proposal when the day’s session ended at 1730. He was yet to call about half of the 40 or more delegations that wanted to speak about the proposal so discussion will resume on Wednesday morning. However, based on his assessment of the comments that had been made so far, he said that the majority of those who had spoken had been in favour of having an EBP.
If it is approved on Wednesday, it is likely that an intercessional group will be formed to present a detailed proposal to MEPC 74 in May 2019.
Earlier in the day a proposal by Bangladesh was debated that would defer amendments to MARPOL Annex VI that will introduce a ban on ships bunkering high-sulphur fuel, unless the ship is using a scrubber or it is being carried as cargo. The ban – due to come into force on 1 March 2020 – was discussed at MEPC 72 and passed to MEPC 73 for adoption, but Bangladesh had submitted a paper that said the deadline should be delayed. It said that low sulphur fuel was not widely available and is more expensive than HFO and thus “may not be affordable by developing and least developed countries,” the Bangladesh delegation told the meeting.
Countries supporting the proposal included India, Iran, Thailand, Saudia Arabia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Iraq and Russia, but other delegations that contributed to the discussion were opposed to the delay. Many of those echoed concerns expressed by Norway, which had been one of the states that had originally proposed introducing a ban on carrying non-compliant fuel. Its delegation described it an important enforcement mechanism to ensure consistent implementation of the sulphur cap. It was also concerned that delaying the ban would send “a bad signal” to the outside world.
With most of those that expressed a view opposing the delay, and although some delegations were still to speak, Mr Saito declared that the proposal had not been accepted and that the originally proposed date was confirmed. A drafting group was instructed to prepare the final text of draft amendments to MARPOL Annex VI, together with the associated MEPC resolution, and to submit a written report to MEPC’s plenary session for adoption on Thursday or Friday.
The day had started with a lengthy discussion about the impact of marine plastic litter, which had begun on Monday afternoon. The meeting heard that much of the plastic litter in the oceans comes from shore-based sources and from discarded fishing gear and delegates put forward a range of proposals, with suggestions including an IMO-backed study on plastic from ships and a call for grey water – which can include microplastic waste – being treated on board or discharged ashore.
With many delegates still planning to speak, the chairman brought discussion to a close so that a working group could begin preparing a draft action plan to address marine plastic litter from ships. The intention is that this plan will be adopted this week. The group will also develop a draft scope of work for the next meeting of the Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR 6) in February and for any other sub‑committees that would be requested to carry out follow-on work emanating from the action plan.
Other discussions on Day 2 covered draft guidance on preparing for the 2020 sulphur cap that had been developed by an intersessional group, with ship implementation planning guidance being approved.