The Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) addresses environmental issues under the IMO’s remit, including air pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions. The 80th session of the Committee (MEPC 80) gathered from 3-7 July 2023 and was chaired by Dr Harry Conway from Liberia. The most pressing issue on the agenda was the revision of the IMO Strategy on Reduction of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions from Ships.
1.Tackling climate change - cutting GHG emissions from ships
A major milestone achieved during MEPC 80 was the adoption of the 2023 IMO Strategy on Reduction of GHG Emissions from Ships after many months of negotiations. The revised Strategy includes an enhanced common ambition to reach net-zero GHG emissions from international shipping close to 2050, a commitment to ensure an uptake of alternative zero and near-zero GHG fuels by 2030, as well as indicative check-points for 2030 and 2040. Key elements of the Strategy include:
IMO remains committed to reducing GHG emissions from international shipping and, as a matter of urgency, aims to phase them out as soon as possible, while promoting, in the context of this Strategy, a just and equitable transition.
Levels of ambition
- Carbon intensity of the ship to decline through further improvement of the energy efficiency for new ships. To review with the aim of strengthening the energy efficiency design requirements for ships;
- Carbon intensity of international shipping to decline. To reduce CO2 emissions per transport work, as an average across international shipping, by at least 40% by 2030, compared to 2008;
- Uptake of zero or near-zero GHG emission technologies, fuels and/or energy sources to increase. Uptake of zero or near-zero GHG emission technologies, fuels and/or energy sources to represent at least 5%, striving for 10%, of the energy used by international shipping by 2030; and
- GHG emissions from international shipping to reach net zero. To peak GHG emissions from international shipping as soon as possible and to reach net-zero GHG emissions by or around, i.e. close to 2050, taking into account different national circumstances, whilst pursuing efforts towards phasing them out as called for in the Vision consistent with the long-term temperature goal set out in Article 2 of the Paris Agreement.
- To reduce the total annual GHG emissions from international shipping by at least 20%, striving for 30%, by 2030, compared to 2008; and
- to reduce the total annual GHG emissions from international shipping by at least 70%, striving for 80%, by 2040, compared to 2008.
Basket of candidate mid-term GHG reduction measures
The 2023 GHG Strategy states that a basket of candidate measure(s), delivering on the reduction targets, should be developed and finalised. It should be comprised of both:
- a technical element, namely a goal-based marine fuel standard regulating the phased reduction of the marine fuel's GHG intensity; and
- an economic element, on the basis of a maritime GHG emissions pricing mechanism.
The mid-term GHG reduction measures should effectively promote the energy transition of shipping and provide the world fleet a needed incentive while contributing to a level playing field and a just and equitable transition.
The 2023 Strategy sets out a timeline towards adoption of the basket of measures and adoption of the updated 2028 IMO GHG Strategy on reduction of GHG emissions from ships:
- MEPC 81 (Spring 2024) - Interim report on Comprehensive impact assessment of the basket of candidate mid-term measures/Finalization of basket of measures
- MEPC 82 (Autumn 2024) - Finalised report on Comprehensive impact assessment of the basket of candidate mid-term measures
- MEPC 83 (Spring 2025) - Review of the short-term measure to be completed by 1 January 2026
- MEPC 84 (Spring 2026) - Approval of measures / Review of the short-term measure (EEXI and CII) to be completed by 1 January 2026
- Extraordinary one or two-day MEPC (six months after MEPC 83 in Autumn 2025) - Adoption of measures
In light of adoption of the IMO 2023 GHG Strategy, IUMI recorded a special podcast with MEPC Chair Dr Harry Conway. Listen to it here: https://iumi.com/news/podcast/mepc-and-the-adoption-of-the-2023-imo-strategy-on-reduction-of-ghg-emissions-from-ships.
2. Energy Efficiency
The Committee approved draft MARPOL amendments regarding the revision of the IMO ship fuel oil consumption Data Collection System (DCS). The ISWG-GHG 14 session in March 2023 had discussed relevant proposals, noting broad support within the Group for the inclusion of data on transport work and on enhanced level of granularity of reported data in the DCS.
The draft amendments are on "Information to be submitted to the IMO Ship Fuel Oil Consumption Database", relating to reporting of data on cargo carried. They will be put forward to MEPC 81 for adoption.
The MEPC further approved the review plan of the CII regulations and guidelines, which must be completed by 1 January 2026.
- Tackling marine litter
Carriage of plastic pellets by sea in freight containers
The MEPC concurred with the ongoing work in the Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR) to address the risks to the marine environment from plastic pellets. This risk has been highlighted by incidents, including the X-Press Pearl in 2021, during which 11,000 tonnes of plastic pellets were spilt off the shore of Sri Lanka.
The Committee noted the two-stage approach agreed by the PPR Sub-Committee in relation to reducing the environmental risks associated with the maritime transport of plastic pellets in freight containers. The approach is based on the development of a draft circular containing recommendations for the carriage of plastic pellets by sea in freight containers, addressing in particular packaging, notification, and stowage. Input to the work is also provided by the Sub-Committee on Carriage of Cargoes and Containers (CCC 9, which meets 20-29 September). The aim is to have the draft circular approved by MEPC 81 in 2024. Subsequently, amendments to appropriate mandatory rules will be developed. These could be informed by the experience gained from the implementation of the voluntary measures.
The MEPC further noted that the PPR Sub-Committee has agreed that plastic pellets should not be carried in bulk.
Mandatory reporting of lost containers
Containers lost overboard can be a serious hazard to navigation and safety at sea as well as to the marine environment. The MEPC approved, for subsequent adoption, draft MARPOL amendments referring to a procedure for reporting lost freight containers.
The draft amendments would add a new paragraph: "In case of the loss of freight container(s), the report required by article II (1) (b) shall be made in accordance with the provisions of SOLAS regulations V/31 and V/32." Related draft SOLAS amendments were approved by the Maritime Safety Committee to require the master of every ship involved in the loss of freight container(s) to communicate the particulars of such an incident to ships in the vicinity, to the nearest coastal State, and also to the flag State.