Sub-Committee on Bulk Liquids and Gases (BLG), 14th session: 8 to 12 February 2010
Safety requirements for natural gas hydrate pellet carriers agreed
Draft Interim Guidelines for the construction and equipment of ships carrying natural gas hydrate pellets (NGHP) in bulk were agreed by the Sub-Committee on Bulk Liquids and Gases (BLG), when it met for its 14th session, to address the shipping safety requirements for this new method of transporting natural gas.
The draft guidelines will be submitted to the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC 87) in May 2010, for approval.
Natural gas hydrate pellets are artificially formed pellets of "natural gas hydrate", which is a crystalline solid consisting of molecules of natural gas (mainly methane), each surrounded by a cage of water molecules. They do not require as low a temperature as liquefied natural gas (LNG) for transportation and storage (LNG requires minus 160 degrees Celsius, gas hydrate pellets require minus 20 degrees Celsius). Natural gas is seen as an important fuel in the context of concerns over climate change, as it produces less carbon dioxide per unit heat release than other fossil fuels such as oil and coal.
The MSC agreed in 2007 on the need to develop the guidelines, following a proposal by Japan, which began a national research and development project on seaborne transportation of natural gas by means of natural gas hydrate pellets in 2001.
The interim guidelines are intended to provide information on the appropriate application of the requirements of the International Code for the Construction and Equipment of Ships Carrying Liquefied Gases in Bulk (IGC Code) to natural gas hydrate pellets carriers, covering issues such as risk assessment and cargo handling.
It was noted that the interim guidelines should be reviewed once the Sub-Committee has completed its ongoing revision of the IGC Code.
MARPOL Annex VI guidelines agreed
The Sub-Committee agreed draft amendments to the 2009 Guidelines for monitoring the worldwide average sulphur content of residual fuel oils supplied for use on board ships (resolution MEPC.183(59)), for submission to the Marine Environment Protection Committee in October 2010 (MEPC 61), with a view to their adoption, taking into account the updated International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standard (ISO:8217) Specification of marine fuels, fourth edition, which is expected to be published in July 2010. The guidelines are intended to assist in the implementation of the revised MARPOL Annex VI Regulations on the prevention of air pollution form ships, which were adopted in 2008 and enter into force on 1 July 2010.
A correspondence group was set up to develop or finalize other relevant guidance, including: draft guidelines for certification of marine diesel engines fitted with selective catalytic reduction (SCR); draft guidelines on the provision of reception facilities, as required by regulation 17.2 of MARPOL Annex VI; and draft guidelines called for under paragraph 220.127.116.11 of the revised NOx Technical Code 2008 (NOx reducing devices).
Ballast Water Management Convention guidance agreed
The Sub-Committee agreed a Framework for determining when a Basic Approval granted to one ballast water management system may be applied to another system that uses the same Active Substance or Preparation and finalized a Guidance Document for Administrations on the type approval process for ballast water management systems in accordance with the Guidelines for approval of ballast water management systems (G8). The framework and guidance document are intended to assist in the uniform implementation of the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments, 2004 (BWM Convention).
The two documents will be submitted to MEPC 61 in October 2010 for approval.
Rules for bio-fuels and blends to be further developed
The Sub-Committee agreed on the need to develop new guidelines to control the shipment of biofuel/petroleum oil blends, to eventually replace the existing interim guidelines on the carriage of bio-fuel blends that permit the continued carriage of blends with up to 15% bio-fuel on MARPOL Annex I (Regulations for the prevention of pollution by oil) ships (applicable to blends using fatty acid methyl ester (FAME), ethanol (ethyl alcohol) and vegetable oil). The interim guidelines, which are applicable up to July 2011, apply only to bio-fuel blends; bio fuels are carried in accordance with MARPOL Annex II (Regulations for the control of pollution by noxious liquid substances carried in bulk).
A cut-off limit of 25% bio fuel for Band 1 carriage under MARPOL Annex I conditions was agreed for the planned guidelines, while bio-fuel blends with an excess of 25% bio-fuels would be treated as Annex II products.
The Sub-Committee also noted discussions on the development of mandatory provisions to prohibit the blending of MARPOL cargoes on board during the sea voyage and that a possible
draft text would be further discussed at the next meeting of the Working Group on the Evaluation of the Safety and Pollution Hazards of Chemicals (ESPH), which reports to the BLG Sub-Committee. The MSC and MEPC agreed in 2009 that such practices should be prohibited and mandatory provisions should be developed.
Biofouling guidelines progressed
The Sub-Committee continued its development of draft Guidelines for the control and management of ships' biofouling to minimize the transfer of invasive aquatic species, the aim of which is to provide a consistent approach to bio fouling management.
It was ageed that the guidelines should focus on commercial vessels and recreational vessels greater than 24 metres in length and that additional guidance for small recreational craft of less than 24 metres in length should be developed as a stand-alone document (with appropriate cross references in both).
The bio-fouling correspondence group was instructed to further develop the guidelines.
There is currently no international measure in place to address the risks of introduction of invasive aquatic species through bio-fouling of ships - in other words, the adherence of sealife such as algae and molluscs to the ships' hulls. The International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-fouling Systems on Ships, 2001, which entered into force on 17 September 2008, prohibits the use of harmful organotins in anti-fouling paints used on ships and establishes a mechanism to prevent the potential future use of other harmful substances in anti-fouling systems. However, it does not address the actual issue of bio-fouling and transfer of species. Other instruments such as the MARPOL and BWM Conventions also do not directly address the issue.
Research indicates that bio-fouling continues to be a significant mechanism for species transfer by vessels. A single fertile fouling organism has the potential to release many thousands of eggs, spores or larvae into the water with the capacity to found new populations of invasive species such as crabs, fish, sea stars, molluscs and plankton. Minimizing bio-fouling will significantly reduce the risk of transfer.
Draft International Code for Gas-Fuelled Ships progressed
The Sub-Committee continued its work on developing the draft new International Code of Safety for Gas-fuelled Ships (IGF Code), and instructed the correspondence group to continue its development.
The use of natural gas as ships' fuels is expected to have a beneficial impact on reducing the volume of harmful atmospheric emissions from shipping.
Chemical products evaluated
The Sub-Committee reviewed the regular report of the ESPH Working Group and agreed with the evaluation of 13 new products for inclusion in the International Bulk Chemicals Code (IBC Code).
It also approved 43 cleaning additives for inclusion in the list of cleaning additives that can be used for tank cleaning as they are readily biodegradable, in accordance with MARPOL Annex II, regulation 13.
The Sub-Committee endorsed the decision of the ESPH Working Group that "shale oils" should be regarded as MARPOL Annex I (Regulations for the prevention of pollution by oil) cargo.