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July 15, 2005

More IMO environmental regs in the pipeline

IMO's Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC) meets in London next week. Once again it is set to adopt a slew of amendments that ultimately will become new or stricter regulations.

Amendments to MARPOL Annex VI

The MEPC is expected to adopt amendments to the Regulations for the Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships in MARPOL Annex Vi. These including the proposed North Sea SOx Emission Control Area (SECA). The date for the amendment to come into force is anticipated to be November 2006, with a 12 month period after that date before full implementation of the North Sea SECA.

Annex VI caps the sulfur content of marine fuel at 4.5 percent by mass. In a SECA, the cap is set at 1.5 percent. Alternatively, ships must fit an exhaust gas cleaning system or use other methods to limit SOx emissions. Draft Guidelines for on-board exhaust gas-SOx cleaning systems and are expected to be approved at next week's meeting.

The MEPC will also review draft guidelines for a CO2 indexing scheme.

Fuel tank protection

The MEPC is expected to consider for future adoption a new MARPOL Annex 1 regulation on oil fuel tank protection. This is intended to apply to all ships with a total fuel oil capacity of 600 cu.m or above delivered on or after August 1, 2010. The draft regulation includes requirements for the protected location of the fuel tanks and performance standards for accidental oil fuel outflow, as an alternative. A maximum capacity limitation of 2,500 cu.m per oil fuel tank is foreseen. The draft regulation also requires Administrations to consider general safety aspects, including the need for maintenance and inspection of wing and double bottom tanks or spaces, when approving the design and construction of ships.

Recycling of ships

Ship scrapping is also on the agenda next week. Environmentalists are pressing hard on this issue, At its last session, MEPC conceded that certain parts of the IMO Guidelines on Ship Recycling might need to be given mandatory effect. Development of a new mandatory regime setting legally binding and globally applicable ship recycling regulations is on the agenda next week.

Harmful aquatic organisms in ballast water and sediments

The MEPC is expected to adopt the guidelines for uniform implementation of the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments (BWM Convention) adopted in February 2004.

The guidelines were finalized during the 9th session of the Bulk Liquids and Gases Sub-Committee and the intersessional meeting of the Ballast Water Working Group held this week.

The MEPC is expected to focus on the adoption of the draft Guidelines for approval of ballast water management systems and the draft Procedure for approval of active substances.

The MEPC is expected to establish a Review Group to determine whether appropriate technologies are available to achieve the ballast water performance standard required by regulation D-2 Ballast Water Performance Standard of the BWM Convention. The review will include an assessment of safety considerations, environmental acceptability of the new technologies, their practicability, cost and biological effectiveness and the socio-economic effects of such technologies, particularly on small island developing states.

Implementation of International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operation (OPRC Convention) and the OPRC-HNS (Hazardous and Noxious Substances) Protocol

The OPRC-HNS Technical Group will meet the week prior to MEPC and will consider a number of issues that are expected to be put forward for approval by the Committee. In particular it is expected that the following items will be considered for approval by MEPC 53:

Guidelines for accreditation or approval of OPRC training organizations and experts that could be adopted by national authorities as a quality assurance mechanism for the delivery of OPRC training courses; and

A newly developed web page which will provide information and guidance on preparedness and response as well as current information on research with respect to marine oil spills.

MEPC will also consider the report of the third meeting of the OPRC-HNS Technical Group.

Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas

The MEPC is expected to consider the designation of the following new Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas (PSSAS), which have already been approved in principle:

  • Extension of the existing Great Barrier Reef PSSA to include the Torres Strait (proposed by Australia and Papua New Guinea).
  • Canary Islands (proposed by Spain);
  • the Galapagos Archipelago (proposed by Ecuador); and
  • the Baltic Sea area (proposed by Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Sweden)
  • The MEPC is expected to finalize its review of the PSSA guidelines with a view to submitting proposed revised guidelines to the IMO Assembly in November-December for adoption.

    Voluntary IMO Member State Audit Scheme

    The MEPC is expected to consider the report of the third session of a Working Group on the Voluntary IMO Member State Audit Scheme and to submit its comments to the 23rd Extraordinary session of the Council (17 to 18 November 2005), ahead of the 24th Assembly.

    Port reception facilities

    The MEPC will be invited to consider the outcome of the FSI Sub-Committee on port reception facilities-related matters, including the approval of a revised consolidated format for reporting alleged inadequacy of port reception facilities and the development of an internet-based port reception facility database. The Committee will also be invited to develop its future action plan on the inadequacy of port reception facilities with the aim of tackling the problem in an effective and efficient way.

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