Summary of day 3 — MEPC divides over numbers as EBP decision is held over
Intense debate during Day 3 (24 October) of IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 73) centred on decisions over implementing Phase 3 of the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) for various ship types and sizes. The decisions were based on views expressed by a number of delegates about some of the parameters involved in setting EEDI levels, with the chairman Hideaki Saito assessing which figures had attracted most support from delegations, but other delegates said that this meant they were not based on the available data.
IMO papers are not made available to non-delegates until after meetings have finished, but it was clear from discussion that a correspondence group set up during MEPC 67 had assessed performance data and had advised that, for some ship types, the next phase could be introduced in 2022 rather than the originally planned 2025.
But, introducing the report, the Liberian delegation said that it would be “plainly unwise” to advance the introduction of EEDI Phase 3 “for ship types where there is insufficient evidence to support such a decision.” For some ship types, it appeared that the correspondence group had proposed later dates for some ship types; referring to another document under review, Mr Saito said that it recommended introduction dates of 2025 and 2030 for bulk carriers and tankers respectively.
Yet in discussion, a number of delegations proposed bringing forward the dates for all ships, with one mentioning 2022 for both tankers and bulk carriers while another argued for keeping 2025 for all ship types. Similar discussions took place around the percentage reduction in EEDI for various ship types and other aspects of the EEDI calculation until the Japanese delegation expressed concern that the meeting was taking decisions without making any reference to the data. A number of others echoed its concerns, prompting a discussion about the lack of data for many ship types under review. For example, one industry group said that a decision that had been made to apply a 40% EEDI reduction to all container ships, “simply does not square with the data.”
Another industry delegate went as far as to say that “the lack of data means that we are really unsure if we are able to design and build ships to meet Phase 3 in 2022.”
Some aspects of the debate – specifically, the requirements for container ships and for ice-strengthened ships – were referred to the working group on air pollution and energy efficiency, which began work at the end of the session, but most were decided in the plenary session.
This prompted Intertanko to warn the meeting that, based on the decisions made, “either we will have under-powered VLCCs or we won’t have VLCCs. This could be a very significant decision.” As a result, “Intertanko intends to make a submission to the next [MEPC] meeting explaining the implications of that decision and the right way to go forward.” Its statement was followed by a number of states expressing support for its concerns.
Later, and despite expectations at the end of Day 2, a proposal for an ‘experience building phase’ (EBP) to come into effect alongside the 0.5% fuel sulphur cap in January 2020 was not agreed during Wednesday’s session.
Debate had been halted at the end of Tuesday’s session, at which time Mr Saito had announced that most delegations that had expressed a view were in favour of creating an EBP. But when discussion resumed 20 minutes before the end of Wednesday’s session, most of the delegations that spoke during the time available were opposed to the scheme.
As a result, Mr Saito declared that opinions were evenly divided after what he called constructive discussions. However, he said that the expression ‘experience building phase’ could “send out the wrong signal that there could be a delay” in introducing the sulphur cap. He said it was a confusing term and suggested that “the precise purpose of the EBP needs to be defined” to clarify that its focus is on data collection and analysis to gain global experience and suggested using existing tools, such as IMO’s Global Integrated Shipping Information System (GISIS).
So he proposed that MEPC 74 should invite further concrete proposals on how to enhance the implementation of MARPOL Annex VI Regulation 18, which covers fuel oil availability and quality. The original proposal had also mentioned Regulation 14, which is the basis for the Sulphur Cap itself.
One of the proposal’s sponsors, Bahamas, welcomed the chairman’s clarification and reiterated that it was not an attempt to circumvent the 0.5% Sulphur Cap. A Bahamas delegate told the meeting that its proposal had been “clumsily worded” and thanked delegations for their input into “this vitally important matter.” He concluded: “We have one world. There is no Plan B.”
Speaking later to ShipInsight, Mr Saito said that focusing discussion on Regulation 18 and moving it to MEPC 74 in May 2019 gave an opportunity to limit the proposal’s scope to fuel availability and quality and to change its name. “There will probably be a new submission that is more concrete [and] focused on data collection,” he said. Asked by ShipInsight whether he thought his intention was clear, he replied “I hope so.”