US delegation clarifies US position as MEPC 73 starts work

Paul Gunton

Paul Gunton · 23 October 2018


US delegates to IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) distanced themselves on Monday (22 October) from remarks reportedly setting out President Trump’s views in favour of delaying implementation of the 2020 sulphur cap.

A report issued by news agency Reuters on 19 October quoted an unnamed White House spokesman saying that the president supports an ‘experience-building phase’ that the spokesman said would mean that “the rule would not have to be fully complied with until a later unspecified date,” Reuters reported.

Monday 22nd October at the IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 73)

It quoted the spokesman as saying that this would “protect consumers from any price spikes in heating and trucking fuels” as a result of the knock-on impact on other fuel markets as shipping suddenly required large quantities of low-sulphur fuel.

Nonetheless, “the administration was not seeking a delay of the rules,” it also said.

ShipInsight sought clarification of the US position during the first day of MEPC 73, which is meeting at IMO’s headquarters in London all this week. One member of the country’s delegation – who asked that his remarks be attributed to ‘the US delegation’ – said “I don’t know what they heard when they wrote that.” He added: “I’m not going to speculate on what the president’s position is. I didn’t talk to him. He didn’t talk to me.”

On Tuesday, the US delegation will be supporting a proposal for an experience-building phase submitted to MEPC 73 by three large flag states and three industry associations that was widely circulated at the end of August. On 8 October, the cosponsors issued a statement clarifying what they described as misconceptions arising from the document, with the first misconception being that “the paper seeks to delay the 0.50% global fuel oil sulphur content standard.”

That statement said “the paper absolutely does not attempt to change the standard, nor does it seek to delay the 1 January 2020 effective date.” The views reported by Reuters appear to suggest that the president’s view of the impact of the sulphur cap – at least in part – follows that misconception.

At MEPC, however, the US delegation agreed that “the sulphur cap will have impacts beyond maritime … on the global fuel market” but stressed that its support for the proposal was because “the experience-building phase gives an opportunity to gather information that can be useful to countries to pragmatically implement the sulphur cap.” When that phase would begin and end could be agreed at MEPC 74, based on submissions to that meeting, if the principle is agreed this week, ShipInsight was told.

Experience could be shared between flag and port states, so that, “as regulators [we would] know the impacts we’re having and how to implement [the sulphur cap],” the delegation said. This could help develop enforcement regimes, which form part of a state’s implementation regime, ShipInsight heard.

MEPC is expected to discuss the proposal on Tuesday, possibly making a decision that day on whether to support it.

Decisions made during Monday included approval of a programme of actions to deliver IMO’s initial strategy on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from ships. They are intended to be used as a planning tool in meeting timelines identified in an initial IMO strategy, which was adopted in April.

A summary of the actions prepared by IMO’s secretariat explained that the initial strategy refers to a range of short-, mid- and long term measures that will be considered by IMO. Short-term measures could be finalised 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 5,000gt, which will begin on 1 January 2019 along with a fourth IMO GHG study, to be initiated in the first half of 2019.

Commending the committee’s approval of the programme of follow-up actions, IMO secretary-general Kitack Lim said it “sets a clear signal on how to further progress the matter of reduction of GHG emissions from ships up to 2023.”

A working group was established on Monday to meet during this week’s MEPC session to discuss, in particular, the scope of that fourth GHG study. It is due to report back to the final plenary session of MEPC 73 on Friday.

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