Summary of the 9th session of the IMO’s Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR 9)

By Hendrike Kühl, IUMI Policy Director

The Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR 9) met virtually for its 9th session from 4-8 April 2022. The session was chaired by Dr Flavio da Costa Fernandes (Brazil). The PPR Sub-Committee deals with matters relating to pollution prevention and response within the IMO’s remit. This ranges from all annexes of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) through to the control and management of harmful aquatic organisms in ships' ballast water and sediments; biofouling; antifouling systems; pollution preparedness, response and cooperation for oil and hazardous and noxious substances; and the safe and environmentally sound recycling of ships. Key issues discussed at PPR 9 included:


Marine litter

Maritime transport of plastic pellets

The PPR Sub-Committee discussed a number of submissions related to the transport of plastic pellets by sea. This included a document submitted by Sri Lanka, reporting on the May 2021 MV X-Press Pearl incident, during which a vast amount of plastic pellets were spilled off the shore of Colombo. Following discussion in a working group, the Committee instructed the Correspondence Group on Marine Plastic Litter from Ships to further consider the options for reducing the environmental risk associated with the maritime transport of plastic pellets and advise the Sub-Committee on the way forward.

In light of the grave environmental implications a spill of plastic pellets will cause, this issue has been discussed within IUMI’s Policy Forum and ESG Working Group. While there is agreement that this is primarily an issue relevant to P&I insurers, it was agreed for IUMI to participate in the Correspondence Group going forward. More information about this topic is available HERE.


Fishing gear - marking and reporting

Under the agenda item on marine plastic litter from ships, PPR 9 discussed the marking of fishing gear and mandatory reporting of lost fishing gear. Draft amendments to MARPOL Annex V to enhance and promote the mandatory reporting have been proposed.

With regard to the marking of fishing gear, the Sub-Committee agreed to recommend to the MEPC that, as a short-term measure to promote the marking of fishing gear, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Voluntary Guidelines for the Marking of Fishing Gear should be promoted by IMO, for example through an MEPC circular. The FAO advised the Sub-Committee that a mandatory obligation for the marking of fishing gear at this stage would be a challenge, noting the voluntary nature of the existing guidelines and that recent research conducted by FAO shows that the development of affordable and effective gear markings is at an early stage. For optimal results, the Voluntary Guidelines should ideally be linked to a global vessel registration system. 


Emissions of Black Carbon from international shipping

A working group discussed various submissions relating to the reduction of the impact on the Arctic of Black Carbon emissions from international shipping. The MEPC at its 77th session in 2021 adopted a resolution which urges Member States and ship operators to voluntarily use distillate or other cleaner alternative fuels or methods of propulsion that are safe for ships and could contribute to the reduction of Black Carbon emissions from ships when operating in or near the Arctic. The resolution encourages Member States to commence addressing the threat to the Arctic from Black Carbon emissions, and report on measures and best practices to reduce Black Carbon emissions from shipping.

Following discussion, the Sub-Committee instructed the Correspondence Group on Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships to continue the work.


Discharge water from exhaust gas cleaning systems (EGCS)

In the context of prevention of air pollution from ships, PPR 9 continued its discussions on the evaluation and harmonization of rules and guidance on the discharge of discharge water from exhaust gas cleaning systems (EGCS) into the aquatic environment. The Sub-committee agreed several measures for approval by MEPC 78. 

In 2021, the MEPC adopted the updated Guidelines for EGCS which specify the criteria for the testing, survey, certification and verification of EGCS and cover continuous monitoring requirements and discharge water quality criteria, provisions to minimize suspended particulate matter, including heavy metals and ash, and to prevent discharge of nitrates beyond specified levels. The Guidelines note that discharge water quality criteria should be reviewed in the future as more data becomes available. Guidance for voluntary discharge water data collection, by means of a recommended procedure for sampling, is included.