Report of the 74th meeting of IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee

By Lars Lange, IUMI Secretary General and Hendrike Kühl, IUMI Policy Director

The IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee held its 74th Session (MEPC 74) from 13-17 May 2019 under the chairmanship of Mr Hideaki Saito from Japan. Here are some of the key issues discussed:

MARPOL amendments - EEDI regulations for ice-strengthened ships

Certain amendments to MARPOL Annex VI were adopted relating to the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) regulations for ice-strengthened ships. The words "cargo ships having ice-breaking capability" were agreed to be replaced with the wording "category A ships as defined in the Polar Code". The expected entry into force date is 1 October 2020.

Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from ships

The MEPC pushed forward with a number of measures aimed at supporting the achievement of the objectives set out in the initial IMO strategy on reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from ships, in line with the Paris Agreement under UNFCCC and the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The committee approved amendments to strengthen existing mandatory requirements for new ships to be more energy efficient; initiated the Fourth IMO GHG Study; adopted a resolution encouraging cooperation with ports to reduce emission from shipping; approved a procedure for the impact assessment of new measures proposed; agreed to establish a multi-donor trust fund for GHG; and agreed terms of reference for the sixth and seventh intersessional working groups to be held in November 2019 and March 2020 respectively in order to expedite the work. 

Also discussed were possible short-term, mid- and long-term measures aimed at reducing GHG emissions from ships, to be further considered at next sessions.

Implementation of the sulphur 2020 limit

The MEPC approved and adopted a comprehensive set of guidance and guidelines to support the consistent implementation of the lower 0.50% limit on sulphur in ships’ fuel oil, which will enter into effect from 1 January 2020. Related draft MARPOL amendments were also approved.

The 2019 guidelines on consistent implementation of 0.50% sulphur limit under MARPOL Annex VI adopted by resolution MEPC.320(74) is available here. These comprehensive guidelines include a template for a "Fuel Oil Non-Availability Report (FONAR)" and a "Technical review of identified possible potential safety implications associated with the use of 2020 compliant fuels".

Marine plastic litter action plan

Following up on the IMO Action Plan to address marine plastic litter from ships adopted at the last session, a working group was set up to discuss how to move forward. Among other outcomes, the MEPC approved the terms of reference for an IMO Study on marine plastic litter from ships.

With regard to the mandatory reporting of containers lost at sea and ways of communicating their location, interested Member States and observer organisations were invited to submit proposals for a new output to the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC). The MEPC requested the Sub-Committees on Carriage of Cargoes and Containers (CCC) and on Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue (NCSR) to note the importance of the issue of lost containers at sea for addressing marine plastic litter from ships. Their expertise could be sought in the future. A correspondence group was established to finalise a draft strategy to address marine plastic litter from ships, based on discussions during MEPC 74, and report to MEPC 75.

Ballast water management treaty implementation

The International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments, 2004 (BWM Convention), entered into force in September 2017 and has, to date, been ratified by 81 countries, representing 80.76% of world merchant shipping tonnage. Amendments to the treaty, relating to implementation timelines, will enter into force on 13 October 2019.  

The main focus for the convention now is on its effective and uniform implementation, and on an experience-building phase, with a focus on gathering data on application of the BWM treaty.

The MEPC approved amendments to the BWM Convention concerning commissioning testing of ballast water management systems and the form of the International Ballast Water Management Certificate. The amendments will be circulated with a view to adoption at MEPC 75. The Committee endorsed the view that commissioning testing should begin as soon as possible, in accordance with the already approved guidance for the commissioning testing of ballast water management systems.

MEPC 74 approved five ballast water management systems that make use of active substances.

More information about the MEPC 74 meeting can be found HERE.