The seventh in a series of papers providing an overview of topical shipping issues, this briefing reviews the outcome of the 68th session of the IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee.
Chaired by Mr. Arsenio Dominguez of Panama, the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) met in London from 11 to 15 May 2015 for its sixty-eighth session.
The Ballast Water Management Convention, the hottest topic of the Committee for the last decade, was once again a major item of the agenda. The Convention’s ratification is imminent but since last October no progress has been made towards its ratification. The Committee noted that only 2.14% of the world’s merchant fleet tonnage is required to meet the 35% threshold.
Nevertheless, the Committee noted the good progress made with regard to the review of Guidelines (G8). The review of the Guidelines (G8), which are used to approve the ballast water treatment systems, was agreed at the last MEPC meeting in October, following concerns from the industry. Some of the issues identified by the report submitted related to the effect of temperature, the different protocols applied by Member States, the definition of viability and incorporation of control and monitoring equipment in treatment systems. A discussion on determining whether the Guidelines (G8), which presently have a voluntary status, should be made mandatory in order to provide consistency of application during testing, was agreed to follow upon completion of the review. Hence, on this issue, the Committee re-established the correspondence group to continue its work and take into account any available data provided from the Study on the implementation of the ballast water performance standard. The work on the revision of the Guidelines is expected to be finalised at the next MEPC meeting, in April 2016.
Progress was also made at this session with regard to the ‘’grandfathering’’ clause. At the last session, in order to facilitate entry into force, the Convention agreed to support the ‘’early movers’’. In particular it was agreed that ‘’shipowners that have installed type-approved ballast water management systems prior to the application of the revised Guidelines (G8), should not be penalized’’. Clarification of the interpretation of this agreement was sought by the industry at this meeting. As it was expected this issue generated much discussion as the Committee’s opinions were divided. The industry’s paper was not welcomed by some Member States that believed that the interpretation should be considered following the results of the Study. However, following lengthy discussion the Committee agreed to an understanding closely aligned to that of the industry. However, instead of an MEPC resolution, a Roadmap for the implementation of Ballast Water Management Convention was agreed. The Roadmap, which do not use the term ‘’first generation’’ as proposed by the industry, states that shipowners who have installed, maintained and operated systems correctly in accordance with the current Guidelines should not be required to replace these systems for the life of the ship or the system, whichever comes first, due to the occasional lack of efficacy for reasons beyond the control of the shipowner and ship’s crew. “Not be penalised’’ means also not be sanctioned, warned, detained or excluded. The Roadmap requests that Port States, Flag States, and shipowners work together to agree on the appropriate solution to allow discharges of ballast water found to be non-compliant and invites the Committee to develop Guidance on contingency measures. The Roadmap still requires that the existing systems meet the requirements of the Convention and spells out that the approach to non-penalisation may be reviewed if additional information will be made available. On determining the way forward, the Committee was invited to develop Guidance for situations where ballast water does not meet the Convention’s requirements. However, progress made on this issue was undermined by the Unites States that placed a formal reservation on the outcome, which was strongly criticised by the Industry. According to the ICS, the US position may delay further the ratification of the Convention.
During the last sessions short sea shipping has voiced its concerns with regard to the lack of a practical approach on issues of exemptions and exemption for the sector. The industry paper that lobbied for the establishment of ‘’same risk areas’’ in order to facilitate issuance of exemptions for short sea shipping was supported in principle. Following its consideration by the Committee’s working group, the Committee agreed to define at its next sessions the term ‘’same location’’ when considering exemptions and to develop guidance for exemptions regarding assessment of ports or locations of the ‘’same risk area’’. The sector also sought clarification with regard to the application of the D-2 standards. Currently, the Convention’s enforcement schedule contains provisions only for ships that perform ballast water exchange, creating uncertainties to those ships operating in sea areas where ballast water exchange is not possible. Therefore, the Committee clarified that ships operating in sea areas where ballast water exchange is not possible will not need to meet the D-2 standards immediately after the entry into force of the Convention, but according to the enforcement schedule of the resolution A.1088 (28).
Finally, the Committee noted that while the total number of IMO type approved BWMS has reached 57 to date, the United States have not approved any ballast water treatment system. However, 17 manufactures have submitted to the USCG their intent to seek type approval.
The second most important issue of this sessions was the development of a global data collection system for fuel consumption. The EU Parliament endorsed on 28 April, the EU Regulation on monitoring, reporting, and verification of carbon dioxide emissions from ships. The regulation, which was not welcomed by the industry and the IMO, enters into force on 1 July 2015 and applies to all ships above 5,000 gross tonnage that call EU ports. In view of this regional development, it was not surprising that this issue was at the centre of the Committee’s discussions. However, as decisions on this issue are more political, no agreement was reached on whether the global system should be mandatory. Although, it is expected that the forthcoming COP 21 Conference (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – UNFCCC) in Paris in December 2015 will be catalytic on the future of the system, the Committee made progress on the text of the proposed system. In particular, the proposed text excludes domestic ships and vessels below 5,000 gross tonnage engaged in international voyages, considers confidentiality of the data reported and takes a three phase approach which will first collect the data, analyse them and based on that consider further decision-making.
Finally, another important outcome of this meeting was the adoption of the environmental aspects of Polar Code and associated MAPROL amendments to make the Code mandatory. The Polar Code and the relevant amendments will enter into force on 1 January 2017. This Code was the subject of a Baltic Briefing paper in February of this year.