Highlights from IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee Meetings - July 2009

January 1, 0001


The Marine Environment Protection Committee (“MEPC” or “Committee”) of the International Maritime Organization (“IMO”) met in London on July 13-17, 2009 and announced plans to distribute a package of interim and voluntary technical and operational measures to reduce greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions from international shipping.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Ships

The Committee adopted a work plan which includes interim guidelines on the method of calculation, and voluntary verification, of the Energy Efficiency Design Index for new ships (such as engine types and engine room layout) and best practices for the fuel-efficient operation of existing ships (including vessel speed recommendations under specified ocean conditions). This program is intended to stimulate innovation and technical development in the area of vessel energy efficiency. The work plan provides for development of a “Ship Energy Efficiency Operational Indicator” for new and existing ships, which enables operators to measure the fuel efficiency of a ship. The Committee has also agreed on a work plan to further explore market-based instruments to provide incentives for the shipping industry.

Greenhouse Gas Study 2009

Results from the Second IMO GHG Study on greenhouse gas emissions from ships were presented at the meeting. The Study estimated that ships engaged in international trade in 2007 contributed about 2.7 per cent of the world’s anthropogenic CO2 emissions. In the absence of global policies to control greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping, the Study indicated that emissions may increase by between 150 and 250 per cent by the year 2050 due to the expected continued growth in international seaborne trade.

MARPOL Amendments - Transfer of Oil Cargo between Oil Tankers at Sea

The MEPC also adopted amendments to MARPOL Annex I for the prevention of marine pollution during some ship-to-ship oil (“STS”) transfer operations. The amendments are expected to enter into force on January 1, 2011. These rules will apply to oil tankers of 150 gross tons and above and will require any oil tanker involved in oil cargo STS operations to have, on board, an approved plan prescribing how to conduct STS operations. In addition to the STS plan, the amendments call for notification to the relevant coastal state in advance of the scheduled STS operations.

Amendments were also approved to the International Oil Pollution Prevention (“IOPP”) Certificate, the Supplement to the IOPP Certificate and the Oil Record Book. These amendments are expected to take effect on January 1, 2011. The objective of the amendments was not to introduce a new requirement but to introduce consistency under MARPOL Annex I, MEPC.1/Circ. 511 and Forms attached to IOPP Certificates.

Oil Residue (Sludge) MARPOL Amendments

Clarifying amendments to MARPOL Annex I regulations 1, 12, 13, 17 and 38, relating to the on-board management of oil residue (sludge) were adopted. Definitions for oil residue (sludge) tanks, oily bilge water and oily bilge water holding tanks were approved. “Oil residue (sludge)” means the residual waste oil products generated during the normal operation of a ship such as those resulting from the purification of fuel or lubricating oil for main or auxiliary machinery, separated waste oil from oil filtering equipment, waste oil collected in drip trays, and waste hydraulic and lubricating oils. “Oil residue (sludge) tank” means a tank which holds oil residue (sludge) from which sludge may be disposed directly through the standard discharge connection or any other approved means of disposal. Oily bilge water means water which may be contaminated by oil resulting from things such as leakage or maintenance work in machinery spaces. Any liquid entering the bilge system including bilge wells, bilge piping, tank top or bilge holding tanks is considered oily bilge water. Oily bilge water holding tank means a tank collecting oily bilge water prior to its discharge, transfer or disposal.”

Antarctic Protection

The MEPC approved, and plans to formally adopt in 2010, draft amendments to MARPOL Annex I regarding use or carriage of oils in the Antarctic area. The proposed draft amendments prohibit the carriage in bulk as cargo, or carriage and use as fuel, certain oils and crude oils in Antarctic waters.

MARPOL Annex VI Guidelines Adopted

The MEPC adopted various guidelines for management, monitoring, or reducing emissions from volatile organic compound (“VOC”), sulfur, and fuel oil. Interim criteria were approved regarding discharge of washwater from exhaust gas cleaning systems (exhaust scrubbers). The Committee also approved communications regarding the NOx Technical Code and certification of Tier I engines.

Ship Recycling

Following the adoption of the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships in May 2009, the Committee adopted Guidelines for the development of the inventory of hazardous materials involved in ship recycling. The Guidelines contain, among other elements, a standard format for the inventory of hazardous materials and information on the preparation of the inventory prior to the final voyage. The Guidelines will require additional work before they are complete.

Ballast Water Management

The MEPC approved guidance regarding safety procedures for ballast treatment process, and the handling and storage of chemicals used to treat ballast water. Various approvals were given to ballast water management systems. The Committee noted that the installation of ballast water management systems may require extensive design consideration such as physical and technical feasibility, modification of ship designs and sufficient lead time necessary for the modifications.

To date, eighteen States have ratified the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments, representing 15.27 per cent of the world’s merchant shipping. The Convention will enter into force twelve months after the date on which not fewer than 30 States, the combined merchant fleets of which constitute not less than 35 per cent of the gross tonnage of the world’s merchant shipping, have become parties to it.

The ECA Program

The MEPC approved a proposal to designate thousands of miles of the U.S. and Canadian coasts as Emission Control Areas (“ECA”), aimed at reducing air emissions from large ships operating within 200 nautical miles of the coasts of these countries.

ECA standards require fuel with no more than 1,000 parts per million (ppm) sulfur beginning in 2015. New ships will have to use advanced emission-control technologies beginning in 2016. This is expected to lead to a 96-per cent reduction in sulfur in ships’ fuels, as well as a cut in emissions of PM by 85 per cent and of NOx by 80 per cent.

The next step in the process will be the submittal of draft amendments to the revised MARPOL Annex VI, which is expected in March, 2010. The ECA is expected to take effect in 2016.

Currently, the revised Annex lists two areas for the control of SOx emissions: the Baltic Sea area and the North Sea, which includes the English Channel.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently published proposed rules aimed at implementing both the ECA fuel standards and emissions standards for Category 3 engines that are consistent with those recently adopted as amendments to MARPOL Annex VI. EPA is proposing fuel sulfur limits under section 211(c) of the Clean Air Act that match the limits that apply under Annex VI in ECAs. The adoption of such standards would forbid the production and sale of fuel oil above 1,000 ppm sulfur for use in the waters within the proposed ECA (as well as internal U.S. waters) and allow for the production and sale of up to 1,000 ppm sulfur fuel for use in Category 3 marine vessels. In addition, ships constructed beginning in 2016 will have to comply with the MARPOL Annex VI Tier 3 NOx limits. These are equivalent to the Tier 3 NOx limits EPA is proposing. These standards are geographic in nature, in that they apply to any vessel built beginning in 2016 while it is operating in an ECA.