North Sea ship emissions control area set to be adopted at environment meeting

Preview: Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) - 53rd session 18-22 July 2005

The Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) is set to adopt amendments to the regulations on air pollution to establish a new special emissions control area for the North Sea when it meets for its 53rd session from 18 to 22 July. Other issues on the agenda include ship recycling and the designation of new particularly sensitive sea areas.

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, including the proposed North Sea SOx Emission Control Area (SECA). The entry into force date for the amendment is anticipated to be November 2006, with a 12 month period after that date before full implementation of the North Sea SECA.

MARPOL Annex VI entered into force on 19 May 2005 and sets limits on sulphur oxide (SOx) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from ship exhausts and prohibits deliberate emissions of ozone-depleting substances.

The Annex establishes a global cap of 4.5 percent by mass (% m/m) on the sulphur content of fuel oil, whereas the sulphur content of fuel oil used onboard ships must not exceed 1.5% m/m in a SECA. Alternatively, ships must fit an exhaust gas cleaning system or use other methods to limit SOx emissions. Draft Guidelines on on-board exhaust gas-SOx cleaning systems have been developed and are expected to be approved by the MEPC at this session, along with unified interpretations of MARPOL Annex VI.

The MEPC will also review the draft Guidelines on a CO2 Indexing Scheme and the outcome of the Technical Workshop on a Greenhouse Gases Indexing Scheme, to be held at IMO on 15 July.

Draft MARPOL regulation on oil fuel tank protection
The MEPC is expected to consider for future adoption a new MARPOL Annex 1 regulation on oil fuel tank protection. The draft regulation on Oil Fuel Tank Protection is intended to apply to all ships delivered on or after 1 August 2010 with an aggregate oil fuel capacity of 600 m3 and above. 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 m3 per oil fuel tank is included in the draft regulation. 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.

Recycling of ships
The MEPC will consider the report of the three-day intersessional meeting of the Working Group on Ship Recycling to be held during the week before MEPC 53 and the report of the Joint ILO/IMO/Basel Convention* Working Group on Ship Scrapping which was held at IMO from 15 to 17 February 2005.

At its last session, the MEPC, having considered the need for developing mandatory measures for ship recycling, agreed that certain parts of the IMO Guidelines on Ship Recycling might be given mandatory effect. The possible development of a new mandatory regime with a view to providing legally binding and globally applicable ship recycling regulations is therefore expected to be given further consideration at this session.

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). The BWM Convention was 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 from 11 to 15 July at IMO Headquarters.

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 also 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).

    Meanwhile, the MEPC is expected to finalise its review of the PSSA guidelines with a view to submitting proposed revised guidelines to the 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 the Joint Maritime Safety Committee (MSC)/MEPC/ Technical Co-operation Committee (TCC) TCC 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. 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, have already been approved by the Council, TCC and MSC and will be considered by the MEPC with a view to giving its own approval. The Committee will also consider for approval 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
    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.

    *International Labour Organization (ILO)/IMO/Conference of Parties to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal

    Briefing 31/2005, 15 July 2005

    IMO - the International Maritime Organization - is the United Nations specialized agency with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships.

    Web site:

    For further information please contact:
    Lee Adamson, Head, Public Information Services on 020 7587 3153 ( or
    Natasha Brown, External Relations Officer on 020 7587 3274 (