Summary of the 7th session of the Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR 7)

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

The 7th session of the Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR 7) met from 17-21 February 2020 at the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) headquarters and was chaired by Vice Chair Dr F. da Costa Fernandes from 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. The meeting was attended by IUMI Secretary General Lars Lange. Key issues discussed included:

Prohibiting the use and carriage for use as fuel of heavy fuel oil by ships in the Arctic

The Sub-Committee agreed draft amendments to MARPOL Annex I to introduce a prohibition on the use and carriage for use as fuel of heavy fuel oil (HFO) by ships in Arctic waters from 1 July 2024. Ships engaged in securing the safety of ships, or in search and rescue operations, and ships dedicated to oil spill preparedness and response would be exempt. 

Currently, a MARPOL regulation prohibits the use or carriage of heavy grade oils on ships in the Antarctic; and under the Polar Code, ships are encouraged not to use or carry such oil in the Arctic.

The Sub-Committee established a correspondence group to further develop draft guidelines on measures to reduce risks of use and carriage of HFO as fuel by ships in Arctic waters. The draft guidelines would cover ship operation, ship construction and heavy fuel oil bunkering, infrastructure and communication, enhancement of heavy fuel oil spill preparedness, early detection and response, and drills and training.

Implementation of the IMO 2020 sulphur limit

IMO 2020, the 0.50% limit for sulphur in ships' fuel oil, has been in effect since 1 January 2020. From 1 March 2020, the carriage ban on non-compliant fuel oil (except for ships with exhaust gas cleaning systems installed) will enter into force, helping to support implementation of the global sulphur limit.

To support the safe and consistent sampling of fuel oil being carried for use, and the enforcement of the carriage ban, the Sub-Committee finalised draft guidelines which provide a recommended method for the sampling of liquid fuel oil intended to be used or carried for use on board a ship.

Revised guidelines on exhaust gas cleaning systems (scrubbers)

The Sub-Committee finalised its work on revising the 2015 Guidelines for exhaust gas cleaning systems (EGCS, also known as scrubbers). The objective of the revision is to enhance the uniform application of the guidelines. They cover continuous monitoring requirements and discharge water quality criteria; provisions to minimise suspended particulate matter, including heavy metals and ash, and provisions to prevent discharge of nitrates beyond specified levels. The guidelines further note that discharge water quality criteria should be reviewed in the future as more data becomes available.

Impact of black carbon emissions on the Arctic

Black carbon in the context of international shipping is the product of incomplete combustion of carbon-based fuels. Black carbon emissions contribute to climate change as a 'short-lived climate pollutant'. IMO has been looking at how to measure and report on black carbon emissions, as part of its work to consider the impact on the Arctic of black carbon emissions from international shipping. A reporting protocol for voluntary measurement studies to collect black carbon data and black carbon measurement methods for data collection have already been agreed.

The Sub-Committee noted a number of submissions, including proposals to look at the aromatic content of blends of fuel oil. A high aromatic content, among other factors, could increase black carbon emissions from ships.

The Sub-Committee established a correspondence group to advance the development of a standardised sampling, conditioning, and measurement protocol, including a traceable reference method and an uncertainty analysis, taking into account the most appropriate black carbon measurement methods to make accurate and traceable (comparable) measurements of black carbon emissions; and investigate the linkages between the measurement systems and policy options.

Review of the Biofouling Guidelines

The Ballast Water Management Convention aims to prevent the spread of potentially harmful aquatic species in ballast water. But invasive species can also attach themselves to the outside of ships. The Sub-Committee began its review of the IMO Biofouling Guidelines, which provide a globally consistent approach to the management of biofouling - the accumulation of various aquatic organisms on ships' hulls.  

The Sub-Committee identified key elements that require further attention and discussion, considered areas for potential revision of the Guidelines, and established a correspondence group on the review of the Biofouling Guidelines, to progress the relevant work and facilitate more effective deliberations at PPR 8.

Marine plastic litter – draft circulars agreed

The Sub-Committee prepared a draft Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) circular on Provision of adequate facilities at ports and terminals for the reception of plastic waste from ships and a draft MEPC circular on Sharing of results from research on marine litter and encouraging studies to better understand microplastics from ships.

A correspondence group was established to consider how to amend MARPOL and the 2017 Guidelines for the implementation of MARPOL Annex V to facilitate and enhance reporting of the accidental loss or discharge of fishing gear. This work is in the context of the IMO Action Plan to address marine plastic litter from ships, which aims to enhance existing regulations and introduce new supporting measures to reduce marine plastic litter from ships.

A complete report of the meeting is available HERE.