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July 29, 2005

IMO's MEPC takes significant steps

IMO has now published a summary of actions taken at this month's 53rd session of its Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC). These included adopted amendments air pollution regulations to establish a new special emissions control area for the North Sea, agreeing to develop a new mandatory instrument to cover ship recycling and adopting four new particularly sensitive sea areas (PSSAs).

If you want get a handle on what actually went on, you'll get a first hand report from Dan Sheehan at our upcoming GREEN SHIP 2005 conference. Meantime, try wrestling with what follows!

Amendments to MARPOL Annex VI

MEPC adopted amendments to the Regulations for the Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships in MARPOL Annex VI, including one on the new North Sea SOx Emission Control Area (SECA). The entry into force date for the North Sea SECA amendment is expected to be 21 November 2006, with its full implementation 12 months later.

The Annex establishes a global cap of 4.5 percent by mass (% m/m) on the sulfur content of fuel oil. The sulfur content of fuel oil used onboard ships operating in a SECA must not exceed 1.5% m/m or, alternatively, ships must fit an exhaust gas cleaning system or use other methods to limit SOx emissions.

The committee noted information gained from monitoring the worldwide sulfur content in fuel oils for 2004 which gave a three-year (2002-2004) rolling average of sulfur content in fuel oil worldwide of 2.67% m/m.

MEPC adopted Guidelines on on-board exhaust gas-SOx cleaning systems; Survey Guidelines under the Harmonized System for Survey and Certification for MAPROL Annex VI; Unified interpretations of MARPOL Annex VI; and Guidelines for Port State Control under MARPOL Annex VI.

MEPC also adopted amendments to update the NOx Technical Code.

MEPC approved Interim Guidelines for Voluntary Ship CO2 Emission Indexing for Use in Trials.

Review of Annex VI

The Committee agreed on the need to undertake a review of Annex VI and the NOx Technical Code with a view to revising the regulations to take account of current technology and the need to further reduce emissions from ships.

MEPC instructed the Sub-Committee on Bulk Liquids and Gases (BLG) to carry out the review by 2007, and specifically to:

examine available and developing techniques for the reduction of emissions of air pollutants; review the relevant technologies and the potential for a reduction of NOx emissions and recommend future limits for NOx emissions;

review technology and the need for a reduction of SOx emissions and justify and recommend future limits for SOx emissions;

consider the need, justification and possibility of controlling volatile organic compounds emissions from cargoes;

with a view to controlling emissions of particulate matter (PM), study current emission levels of PM from marine engines, including their size distribution and quantity, and recommend actions to be taken for the reduction of PM from ships. Since reduction of NOx and SOx emission is expected to also reduce PM emission, estimate the level of PM emission reduction through this route;

consider reducing NOx and PM emission limits for existing engines;

consider whether Annex VI emission reductions or limitations should be extended to include diesel engines that use alternative fuels and engine systems/power plants other than diesel engines;

review the texts of Annex VI, NOx Technical Code and related guidelines and recommend necessary amendments.

Recycling of ships

MEPC 53 agreed that the IMO should develop, as a high priority, a new instrument on recycling of ships with a view to providing legally binding and globally applicable ship recycling regulations for international shipping and for recycling facilities

MEPC 53 approved a draft Assembly resolution, for adoption by the twenty-fourth session of the IMO Assembly, setting out the Organization’s commitment to develop this new IMO instrument.

MEPC 53 also agreed that the new IMO instrument on ship recycling should include regulations for the design, construction, operation and preparation of ships so as to facilitate safe and environmentally sound recycling, without compromising the safety and operational efficiency of ships; the operation of ship recycling facilities in a safe and environmentally sound manner; and the establishment of an appropriate enforcement mechanism for ship recycling (certification/reporting requirements).

MEPC 53 further agreed that the above-mentioned instrument should be completed in time for its consideration and adoption in the biennium 2008-2009.

In its initial consideration of issues related to the development of mandatory requirements on ship recycling, MEPC 53 considered the prohibition of the use of certain hazardous materials in the construction and equipment of ships; the design of ships and ships' equipment to facilitate recycling and removal of hazardous materials; the preparation, update and verification of inventories of potentially hazardous materials on board ships; the possible need for a survey and certification system, the development of a reporting system for ships destined for recycling; and the need for the recycling facilities to be approved/licenced or properly regulated in accordance with internationally developed and globally applied standards.

MEPC 53 also agreed that the development of a new legally-binding instrument on ship recycling should not shift the attention of the stakeholders involved away from the important work that is needed for the implementation of the IMO Guidelines on Ship Recycling.

MEPC 53 also approved amendments to the IMO Guidelines on Ship Recycling (Assembly resolution A.962(23)) with the view to their submission to the twenty-fourth session of the Assembly for adoption.

The Committee also agreed an MEPC circular Implementation of the IMO Guidelines on Ship Recycling-- “Gas-free-for-hot-work” certification which urges recycling States to introduce mandatory requirements on procedures to be followed regarding “gas-free-for-hot-work” certification in ship recycling operations and to ensure that appropriate arrangements are in place to monitor and enforce these requirements.

An MEPC circular on ship recycling was approved. It invites the ship recycling States to make publicly available information about the point of contact for the competent authorities responsible for issues related to ship recycling; and Governments and all involved stakeholders to provide information to the Organization on any experience gained in the implementation of the IMO Guidelines.

MEPC 53 endorsed the recommendations agreed by the Joint ILO/IMO/BC Working Group on Ship Scrapping, at its first meeting, regarding the work program activities on ship recycling, the promotion of the implementation of the ship recycling guidelines and joint technical co-operation activities and nominated five Member States (Bangladesh, Japan, Netherlands, Norway and the United States) to represent the Organization in the second session of the Joint Working Group, which will be hosted by the Basel Convention in Geneva in December 2005.

Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas

MEPC agreed to the designation of the following new Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas (PSSAs), which were previously 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)
  • Meanwhile, MEPC finalized its review of the Guidelines for the Identification and Designation of Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas and will submit the proposed revised guidelines to the twenty-fourth session of the Assembly for adoption.

    Harmful aquatic organisms in ballast water and sediments

    MEPC adopted Guidelines for uniform implementation of the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments (BWM Convention), which was adopted in February 2004. The guidelines cover ballast water management equivalent compliance; approval of ballast water management systems; ballast water management and development of ballast water management plans; ballast water exchange and the procedure for approval of ballast water management systems that make use of Active Substances.

    Draft Guidelines for approval and oversight of prototype ballast water treatment technology programs will be considered at the next MEPC session.

    Approval of ballast water management systems

    Any proposals submitted for approval of Ballast Water Management systems that make use of Active Substance will be reviewed by a dedicated GESAMP-Ballast Water Technical Group on Active Substances [GESAMP apparently stands for Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection]. This group would then report on whether such a proposal presents unreasonable risk to the environment, human health, property or resources .

    The GESAMP-BW Technical Group will be financed through a fee scheme and paid for by the body or industry requesting approval of a ballast water management system using Active Substances.

    The Convention requires a review to be undertaken no later than three years before the first effective date for compliance set out in the Convention in order to determine whether appropriate technologies are available to achieve the standard. A Review Group established at the session reviewed 14 different ballast water management technologies and systems which could meet the ballast water performance standard in the Convention.

    Regulation D-2 Ballast Water Performance Standard – states that ships conducting ballast water management shall discharge less than 10 viable organisms per cubic metre greater than or equal to 50 micrometres in minimum dimension and less than 10 viable organisms per milliliter less than 50 micrometres in minimum dimension and greater than or equal to 10 micrometres in minimum dimension; and discharge of the indicator microbes shall not exceed the specified concentrations.

    The indicator microbes, as a human health standard, include, but are not be limited to:

    a. Toxicogenic Vibrio cholerae (O1 and O139) with less than 1 colony forming unit (cfu) per 100 milliliters or less than 1 cfu per 1 gram (wet weight) zooplankton samples ;

    b. Escherichia coli less than 250 cfu per 100 milliliters;

    c. Intestinal Enterococci less than 100 cfu per 100 milliliters.

    The technologies and systems were reviewed against criteria of safety, environmental acceptability, practicability, cost effectiveness and biological effectiveness including an assessment of socio-economic effects, specifically in relation to the developmental needs of developing countries, particularly small island developing States.

    It was agreed that the information collected to date on the systems and technologies currently being tested suggested they had the potential to meet the criteria and it was, therefore, anticipated that final approval of the systems, following testing and evaluation, could be achieved during 2008. The Review Group would meet again at MEPC 55.

    BWM Convention status

    Eight countries (Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Finland, Maldives, The Netherlands, Spain and Syrian Arab Republic) have signed the Ballast Water Management Convention, subject to ratification. Maldives became the first Contracting Party after depositing its instrument of ratification on 22 June 2005. The Convention will enter into force 12 months after ratification by 30 States, representing 35 per cent of world merchant shipping tonnage.

    CAS amendments adopted

    The Committee adopted amendments to the Condition Assessment Scheme (CAS) for oil tankers, to bring its cross-references into line with the revised MARPOL Annex I which is expected to enter into force in January 2007.

    The Committee also approved an MEPC circular on Guidelines for port State control officers whilst checking compliance with the Condition Assessment Scheme (CAS).

    Draft MARPOL regulation on oil fuel tank protection approved

    MEPC approved for future adoption a new MARPOL Annex 1 regulation on oil fuel tank protection. The draft regulation is intended to apply to all ships with an aggregate oil fuel capacity of 600 m3 and above delivered on or after August 1, 2010. The draft regulation includes requirements for a maximum capacity limitation of 2,500 m3 per oil fuel tank, the protected location of the fuel tanks and performance standards for accidental oil fuel outflow, as an alternative. 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 in accordance with the regulation.

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

    The Committee approved 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.

    MEPC also approved the development of a web page that will provide information and guidance on preparedness and response as well as current information on research with respect to marine oil spills. The Committee also approved a directory of web links related to oil spill preparedness and response including related research and development.

    Ship to ship oil transfer

    The Committee agreed to consider the development of amendments to MARPOL to prevent the risk of pollution during oil transfer operations between ships at sea. It agreed to include a high-priority item on “amendments to MARPOL Annex I for the Prevention of marine pollution during oil transfer operations between ships at sea” in the work program of the Sub-committee on Bulk Liquids and Gases (BLG) with a target completion date of 2007.

    It was recognized that the technical and operational issues pertaining to the potential risk of pollution during ship-to-ship transfer of oil cargoes at sea should take into account the principles of international maritime law, including UNCLOS, and the rights and obligations of coastal and flag States.

    Voluntary IMO Member State Audit Scheme

    MEPC approved the report of the third session of the Joint Maritime Safety Committee (MSC)/MEPC/ Technical Co-operation Committee (TCC) Working Group on the Voluntary IMO Member State Audit Scheme and forwarded its comments to the 23rd Extraordinary session of the Council (17 to 18 November 2005), ahead of the 24th Assembly. The MEPC approved the draft Framework for the Voluntary IMO Member State Audit Scheme, the draft Procedures for the Voluntary IMO Member State Audit Scheme and the related draft Assembly resolution, all of which were developed by the Joint Working Group and had already been approved by the Council, TCC and MSC.

    The Committee also approved the draft Code for the Implementation of Mandatory IMO instruments, together with its associated draft Assembly resolution, which was developed by the Sub-Committee on Flag State Implementation (FSI) and approved by the MSC at its 80th session in May 2005.

    Port reception facilities

    MEPC approved a Revised consolidated format for reporting alleged inadequacy of port reception facilities and an MEPC circular on Waste reception facility reporting requirements. The Committee also agreed to develop a port reception facility database (PRFD) as a module of the IMO Global Integrated Shipping Information System (GISIS).

    The circulars and the database are aimed at improving the rate of reporting alleged inadequacies of reception facilities so that the problem can be tackled more effectively.

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