The latest IMO environmental committee meeting pushed the Polar Code past the finish line, as well as tackling the thorny issues of ballast water management and emissions
The IMO has taken its final step towards making the Polar Code internationally binding through the approval of the environmental part of the code at its latest Marine Environment Protection Committee meeting.
With the safety-related part of the code adopted in November last year, the MEPC 68 approval means that all aspects of navigation in polar waters will now be covered by international regulations.
The Polar Code will apply to all passenger ships and cargo ships over 500 gt and covers everything from the design of ships, navigation and the education and training of crew to sewage and garbage disposal and search and rescue activities. The regulations will enter into force on January 1, 2017.
The committee also adopted amendments to MARPOL Annex I, regulation 12, revising the provisions related to tanks for oil residues (sludge). These amendments update and revise the regulation, expanding on the requirements for discharge connections and piping, to ensure oil residues are properly disposed of.
“Despite widespread concern from operators on the practical implementation of the Convention, it is now close to receiving sufficient ratifications to meet the remaining entry into force criteria”
The topical matters of ballast water management, air pollution and energy efficiency measures were also on the agenda. On the first issue, the MEPC reviewed the status of the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments (BWM Convention), 2004.
Despite widespread concern from operators on the practical implementation of the Convention, it is now close to receiving sufficient ratifications to meet the remaining entry into force criteria. Currently, 44 member states have ratified it, representing 32.86% of the world’s merchant fleet by tonnage. The BWM Convention will enter into force 12 months after the date on which not fewer than 30 States, with a combined merchant fleet of at least 35% of the world’s gross tonnage, have ratified it.
Further, a ‘Roadmap for the implementation of the BWM Convention’ was agreed, which emphasised that early adopters of ballast water management technologies should not be penalised. The committee also developed draft amendments to regulation B-3 of the BWM Convention to provide an appropriate timeline for ships to comply with the ballast water performance standard set out in regulation D-2 of the convention.
The committee also discussed energy efficiency requirements, adopting amendments to the 2014 guidelines on survey and certification of the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) and the 2013 interim guidelines – for determining minimum propulsion power and for the level one minimum power lines assessment for bulk carriers and tankers.
It agreed text for ships of 5,000 gt and above for the collection of data in relation to fuel consumption data. Under the Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan (SEEMP), this data will be aggregated into an annual figure by the ship operator and fed back to the flag State, who will in turn submit it to the IMO for inclusion into a database. The data will be anonymous and access to the database will be restricted to Member States only.
On the air pollution front, revisions to guidance and requirements were approved in relation to carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide emission testing for exhaust gas, testing of gas-fuelled engines and dual fuel engines for nitrogen oxides levels, and requirements related to marine diesel engines fitted with Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) Systems.
Meanwhile, with the permitted sulphur content of fuel oil used on ships due to drop to a maximum of 0.5% m/m outside an Emission Control Area (ECA) from January 1, 2020, the MEPC has initiated a fuel oil availability review to ensure that there will be enough available by the deadline.
The IMO Secretariat was requested to initiate the review by September 1, 2015, with a view to the final report being submitted to MEPC 70 in autumn 2016. A Steering Committee consisting of 13 Member States, one intergovernmental organisation and six international non-governmental organizations was established to oversee the review. Depending on the outcome of the review, this requirement could be deferred to January 1, 2025.
Staying on the fuel oil issue, the MEPC considered the report of the correspondence group established to investigate the possibility of establishing quality control measures before fuel oil is delivered to a ship. The outcome was that the correspondence group was re-established to further develop draft guidance on best practice for assuring the quality of fuel oil delivered for use on board ships; further examine the adequacy of the current legal framework in MARPOL Annex VI for assuring the quality of fuel oil for use on board ships; and submit a report to MEPC 69.