The IMO MEPC 69 Summary – All You Need To Know

This week the international shipping political community gathered in London as the International Maritime Organization (IMO) held its 69th Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) session at the IMO Headquarters in London.

Throughout this week Ship Efficiency Review has been reporting from the front line of MEPC 69, conveying the regulatory debates and deliberations and publicising the key debates taking place from within the plenary sessions.

In this week’s spotlight, we answer the question: “what happened at MEPC 69?”

This agenda for this highly anticipated meeting held the potential for many twists and turns. Ballast water management, industry GHG emissions, and vessel efficiency were all in line to take a battering from Member States, Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and industry associations.

Upon arriving at the end of the week we took the opportunity to reflect on the week’s “movers and shakers”. The topic of ballast water management is eerily quiet. At the time of writing (16.00 Friday, April 22) not much information has been released about changed to G8 guidelines and the only Member State to act upon Ballast Water Convention ratification was Peru, who announced its parliament had ratified the Ballast Water Convention. There are still some internal steps to get through before the instrument of ratification is deposited with IMO but that should happen soon. However, there were aspects that were hotly debated including self-monitoring, first mover penalties and even the request for a 15-year relaxation period for BWMS retrofitting.

When it came to Air Pollution and Energy Efficiency there were pats on the backs all around as the success of projects and programmes were celebrated. The most controversial aspect of that particular agenda item was the Cook Islands delegation calling upon upon fellow Member States to take more responsibility to oversee the quality compliance of marine fuels.

The principal achievement for this arduous week in the political calendar was the MEPC reaching agreement on mandatory requirements for ships to record and report their fuel consumption. Under the agreement, which will be drafted for adoption at MEPC 70, ships of 5,000 GT+ will be required to collect consumption data for each type of fuel used in addition to other specified data.

The debate around shipping’s greenhouse gas emissions, made more controversial in the wake of COP21 negotiators leaving shipping out of the Paris Agreement in December 2015, was fast and furious but overall the majority of Member States agreed that the industry must implement the Paris Agreement. There was also majority support for the development of a work plan that would devise a definition of what is meant by a “fair share” for international shipping to contribute to the reduction of GHG emissions. However, overall it appears that the discussions held around shipping’s GHG emissions at MEPC 69 were merely a warm-up event to those that will now happen at the next MEPC which is scheduled to be held in October 2016. Some say that the IMO will be ridiculed for its lack lustre GHG action efforts this week.

We provide a brief summary for the MEPC 69 agenda items for ballast water, air pollution + energy efficiency and GHG emissions below:

Harmful Aquatic Organisms in Ballast Water

Of particular importance this week were the number of items that were put forward with relation to the imminent implementation of the Ballast Water Management (BWM) Convention.

BWMS Self-Monitoring Tech Debated 

Denmark proposed the self-monitoring of ballast water management systems for indicative compliance with the Ballast Water Management Convention to the MEPC.

While Japan stated that monitoring is challenging and more information and more data is required for the issue to progress, India rejected the proposal on the grounds that it is too ‘premature’ right now, which was supported by others such as Australia, Intertanko and the Marshall Islands, suggesting that the proposal should not go forward.

Some support was given to the proposal, however, there was contention from some countries.  MEPC Chairman, Mr Arsenio Dominguez, concluded that the self-monitoring proposal should be sent to the review group for further discussion.

BWMS First-Mover Penalty Proposal Rejected

A proposal put forward by the Community of European Shipyards Associations (CESA) that called for the replacement of any ballast water management equipment that does not meet the standard failed to gain support from the MEPC.

The Committee deemed that there was not enough support for the submitted Proposals Related To The Non-Penalization Of First Movers and have said that the next MEPC (MEPC 70) will continue the work due to lack of submissions at this point.

CESA proposed that systems that were previously approved under the current G8 Guidelines should be matched to the new G8 requirements, with systems to receive documentation for any exclusions or changes to their functioning thereafter. However, this was contested by ICS who believe that “systems approved under these original Guidelines should be allowed to operate under these and jot the revised Guidelines”, and therefore not be penalised if they do not meet the new Guidelines.

In support of ICS’ comments were BIMCO, CLIA, Intertanko, Intercargo and others who all suggested that approval of CESA’s proposal would be “contrary to the roadmap” (Intertanko) with a strong consensus by many that systems should still be permitted as long as they comply with the Guidelines to which they were first approved.  This would avoid unnecessary replacement costs and upgrades, which is “not fair to the ship owner or the manufacturer”, according to ICS.

MEPC Chairman, Mr Arsenio Dominguez agreed with the statements and concluded that MEPC 70 will carry out more work if further proposals are submitted on this issue.

Request for 15-Year Extension Period For BWMS Retrofits Rejected

A proposal submitted by Liberia to the MEPC that called for the BWMS relaxation period to be extended by 15 years due to existing ships needing the time to retrofit systems successfully failed to gain support, therefore the original implementation dates remain untouched.

Liberia voiced the concern throughout their proposal that the high number of ships requiring BWMS retrofits versus the dockyard capacity would be too high to meet the demand once the Convention enters into force.  With a 15-year relaxation period proposed by Liberia to enable “certainty and confidence for all stakeholders”, the retrofit market would be given the time it needs as well as permitting the consideration of alternatives.

However, this proposal was rejected by the Chairman with the response that more information is required to be submitted.  Japan agreed with the rejection, stating that “many stakeholders have already prepared for implementation, changing the schedule would lead to early penalisation” and highlighted the fact that the Convention needs to be “implemented properly rather than be changed”.  “If we do not install systems for another 15 years then we will not be able to achieve the purpose of the Convention”, they stated.  CESA agreed suggesting that although they understand that technical difficulties are present, it is the same for other ship technology retrofits and so the concerns raised by Liberia do not warrant postponing.  Vanuatu agreed that 15 years is too much time but it should be considered by the review group.

Taking note of the comments he said that it will not be sent to the review group but will wait for Liberia to submit further information at another MEPC session in the future.

Peru Announced It’s Parliment Ratified The Ballast Water Convention

The Committee welcomed a statement made by the delegation of Peru, informing the Committee that Peru is expected to deposit its instrument for accession to the BWM Convention with the Secretary-General in the near future.

 Air Pollution and Energy Efficiency

There were a total of 12 documents submitted to MEPC in relation to this Agenda item 5 on air pollution and energy efficiency.

Facilitating the Transfer of Technology to Ships Project Examined

Several Member States including Brazil, UK, U.S, Canada, Poland, Belgium and the Netherlands gave praise to the Ad Hoc Expert Working Group on its report on the discussion between IMO Member States on matters relating to technology transfer from developed to developing States.

MEPC chairman, Mr Arsenio Dominguez then instructed the committee to keep updated on the project, the secretariat must keep reporting to MEPC and then further actions will be taken as appropriate. He praised the group for completing the work in the time that was set up to do so.

Train the Trainer Course Examined

The success of this course to provide assistance on ship management and operational issues as well as the EEDI calculator for training purposes was noted by the Chairman, suggesting that other organisations should make use of it.

Fuel Oil Quality

The United States’ submission highlighted the work of the Correspondence Group on fuel oil quality and the issues remaining, largely relating the responsibility in addressing the quality of fuel oil.

ICS suggested that guidance should be made available to relevant key stakeholders with a guidance on best practise for fuel oil to be made relevant to Member States and coast guards in addition to fuel oil suppliers.

Intercargo agreed that Member States should have some say in the matter of fuel oil quality.

This resulted in the Cook Islands delegation having called upon fellow Member States to take more responsibility to oversee the quality compliance of marine fuels.

The Cook Islands representative accused Member States of “skirting around the issue” and therefore stated that: “we (the Member States) need to accept far more robust oversight and capacity on compliant marine fuels”. However, this was contested by some delegations, such as the UK and Spain who suggested that the role of fuel oil quality is out of the framework of the IMO should therefore not be treated under MARPOL.

Following an intense debate, the MEPC Chairman concluded that there should be no revisions to the legal framework and based on interventions they should not instruct the Committee Group to conduct further research on the framework.  Those comments stated will be reflected and those Member States that want to pursue this in the future can do so by putting forward their proposals in future sessions.

Fuel Oil Availability Pushed to MEPC 70

In relation to the availability of fuel oil, it was suggested by ICS that the final decision for the date of implementation of the 0.5% global sulphur cap should be taken at MEPC 70 to allow the industry time to “prepare and plan accordingly”.

Iran agreed but said that a cost-benefit analysis should be included to help understand the issues of available fuel, with Singapore agreeing to this and Korea stating that “transparency and credibility are key factors”, with industry preparations vital to ensure fuel availability.

Shore Power Connection Mandatory Standardisation Debated

CESA proposed that the international (IEC) standard for shore power connection should be mandated to those who choose to install shore power on their ships/ports, but emphasised that this does not include proposing a mandatory carriage requirement.

The majority of Member States agreed that the IMO should require ports and newbuild ships to use this standardised design, but some had reservations with amending the text and there was emphasis from Panama on making sure that if this happens then the shore power needs to come from a renewable energy source. At this stage it was decided that the comments should be noted but those interested to further the proposal will need to submit a proposal to MEPC or SOLAS for a new output in order for this to be considered at this stage.

MEPC Agrees On Mandatory Data Collection For Ship Fuel Consumption

The MEPC has agreed on mandatory requirements for ships to record and report their fuel consumption. Under the agreement, which will be drafted for adoption at MEPC 70, ships of 5,000 GT+ will be required to collect consumption data for each type of fuel used in addition to other specified data.

This data will have to be reported to flag State at the end of each calendar year.

Under the ruling, if the ship’s consumption data meets requirements, the flag sSate will issue each ship with a statement of compliance and will transfer the anonymised data to the IMO Ship Fuel Consumption Database.

The data collection requirements could enter into force in 2018.

A hefty part of discussions this week at the IMO’s 69th MEPC, the data collection system will feed into future policy debates around shipping’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Reduing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Ships

The discussions were intense with many opinions firing across the room from vocal Member States. Once thing was evident, the MEPC is keen to support the Paris Agreement’s goals and to contribute their share to halting climate change but wants to do it at a slow, careful, data-driven pace that is suitable for the shipping industry.

Following comments across the floor there was simultaneous agreement that a three stage process involving data collection, data analysis and then decision-making, would be the best approach to take, with immediate action to be focused upon stage 1 data collection. With many countries aligning to France’s statement that “we need to show the credibility of our organisation” in global climate change efforts, it was decided that data collection would be the first step in doing so.

Brazil agreed that combatting emissions is vital but caution is needed to set out the process properly.  This means that looking at current measures across the IMO and improving these rather than implementing new measures.  Social, economic and technical implications should be considered, and developing countries need “to be provided with the means to contribute to this agenda”.  Vanuatu supported this, raising concerns as they have the lowest contribution to GHG emissions and are not as well off in capital terms, meaning that it is challenging for people to have the technology and measures for climate change mitigation.

Both Finland and ICS agreed that the industry needs to work together and review contributions every 5 years due to constant change and transport patterns, especially with the increasing eco-shipping methods that are utilised today.

Implementing the Paris Agreement in the maritime industry was seen as vital to many Member States, with Chile responding that “implementation of the Paris Agreement is fundamental if we are to move together towards a low carbon economy of fundamental importance to vulnerable countries like Chile.”  In response to many countries aligning themselves to this comment, it was suggested by Mr Dominguez the approval adoption of a data collection system is of high priority and the development of work plan for appropriate long-term objectives should be properly structured to consider issues raised in this extensive debate.  The details of the work plan suggested to be further considered at MEPC 70 with establishment of a working group using all documents from this session and further proposals for analysis.

However, this was met with some disagreement, with Cook Islands suggesting that “we need to go further than a three stage approach” and China indicating that first steps must be established before a working group can be.

In summary the discussions that took place through “Item 7: REDUCTION OF GHG EMISSIONS FROM SHIPS” did not surmount to the IMO’s MEPC reaching agreement on a work plan for developing carbon emissions reporting and regulation. Some say that this lack of movement by the IMO will be ridiculed.

What did happen was the majority of Member States agreeing that the adoption of data collection system is of high priority for action of shipping’s GHG emissions. To that effect one of the main successes from this week is that draft amendments to MARPOL Annex VI on data collection have been approved and will be ready for adoption at MEPC 70 in October 2016.

The majority of Members States also supported the development of work plan to develop a definition of what is meant by a “fair share” for international shipping to contribute to the reduction of GHG emissions.

In response to the concerns raised, the MEPC Chairman voiced the conclusion that further discussions are required and more proposals need to be submitted but for now the aim is to drop the work plan and to establish a working group at the next session using documents from MEPC 69 and any submitted prior to MEPC 70, leaving the proposals and discussion in plenary.

Ship Efficiency Review has been reporting throughout the duration of MEPC 69. For all news and insight published search for articles tagged “MEPC 69” on Shipefficiencyreview.com or search via #MEPC69 on Twitter.

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To contact the reporter responsible for this article, please email editor@fathom-mi.com

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