Southern South Africa waters designated as Special Area by IMO environment meeting

Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) - 55th session: 9 - 13 October 2006


Amendments to MARPOL designating the waters off Southern South Africa as a Special Area under the MARPOL Convention for the prevention of pollution by ships, have been adopted by the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), which met for its 55th session from 9-13 October, at Westminster Central Hall, London.

The MEPC also made significant progress in developing a new convention on ship recycling and on other issues on its agenda, including ballast water management and air pollution from ships.

Southern South Africa Special Area
The designation of the Southern South Africa waters as a Special Area under Annex I (Regulations for the prevention of pollution by oil from ships) of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973, as modified by the Protocol of 1978 relating thereto (MARPOL 73/78), will provide measures to protect wildlife and the marine environment in an ecologically important region used intensively by shipping.

In an Annex I Special Area, any discharge into the sea of oil or oily mixtures from ships of 400 gross tonnage and above is prohibited except when certain conditions apply.

Other Special Areas designated under MARPOL Annex I are: the Mediterranean Sea, Baltic Sea, Black Sea, Red Sea, "Gulfs" Area, Gulf of Aden, Antarctic, North West European Waters and the Oman area of the Arabian Sea.

The MEPC also agreed a Circular which requests Member Governments and industry groups to comply with the Special Area requirements immediately on a voluntary basis and, in particular, requests them to urge oil tankers to refrain from washing their cargo tanks in the new Special Area, pending the entry into force of the amendment, which will take effect from March 2008.

Revised MARPOL Annex III adopted
The MEPC adopted the revised MARPOL Annex III Regulations for the prevention of pollution by harmful substances carried by sea in packaged form. The Annex has been revised to harmonize the regulations with the criteria for defining marine pollutants which have been adopted by the UN Transport of Dangerous Goods (TDG) Sub-Committee, based on the United Nations Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS).

Amendments to the Condition Assessment Scheme
The MEPC adopted amendments to the Condition Assessment Scheme (CAS) clarifying the validity of the Statement of Compliance where there is a change of ownership of the ship, change of recognized organization or change of flag and giving the procedures to follow in these cases.

Amendments to the Guidelines for the transport and handling of limited amounts of hazardous and noxious liquid substances in bulk on offshore supply vessels
The MEPC adopted amendments to the Guidelines for the transport and handling of limited amounts of hazardous and noxious liquid substances in bulk on offshore supply vessels (LHNS guidelines) consequent upon the entry into force of the revised MARPOL Annex II and the amended IBC Code on 1 January 2007.

Revised sewage standards
The MEPC adopted revised Guidelines on implementation of effluent standards and performance tests for sewage treatment plants. The revised guidelines, which will apply to sewage treatment plants installed onboard on or after 1 January 2010, replace the Recommendation on international effluent standards and guidelines for performance tests for sewage treatment plants adopted by resolution MEPC.2(VI) in 1976.


The MEPC also adopted a standard for the maximum rate of discharge of untreated sewage from holding tanks when at a distance equal or greater than 12 nautical miles from the nearest land.

Recycling of ships
The MEPC Working Group on Ship Recycling further developed the text of the draft Convention providing globally applicable ship recycling regulations for international shipping and for recycling activities and it agreed to request the IMO Council, at its 98th session (in June 2007), to consider the allocation of a five-day international conference in the 2008-2009 biennium to adopt it.

It is intended that the Convention will provide 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, incorporating certification and reporting requirements.

A correspondence group was established to continue developing the draft convention and related guidelines and it was agreed to hold an intersessional meeting of the Ship Recycling Working Group, ahead of the next MEPC session scheduled for July 2007.

Harmful aquatic organisms in ballast water
The MEPC adopted the following guidelines, which are part of a series developed to assist in the implementation of the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments (BWM Convention) adopted in February 2004:

  ballast water exchange design and control standards (G11);
  design and construction to facilitate sediment control on ships (G12);
  designation of areas for ballast water exchange (G14);
  sediment reception facilities (G1); and
  ballast water reception facilities (G5).

Six other guidelines in the series have already been adopted during the last two sessions of the MEPC. The Sub-Committee on Bulk Liquids and Gases (BLG) was instructed to finalize guidelines on additional measures including emergency situations (G13).

Meanwhile, following consideration of the report of the second meeting of the GESAMP1 Ballast Water Working Group, which met in May 2006, the MEPC granted Basic Approval to two BWM systems proposed by Japan (the Special Pipe Ballast Water Management System (combined with Ozone treatment)) and Sweden (the EctoSys™ electrochemical system).

The Ballast Water Review Group met during the session to evaluate the latest information on ballast water treatment technologies and to determine whether appropriate technologies are available to achieve the ballast water performance standard required under regulation D-2 of the BWM Convention by 2009, the first date specified in the Convention under which new ships must comply with the performance standard. Based on the Review Group's conclusions, the MEPC noted that type-approved ballast water management systems would probably be available for installation prior to the first application date of the BWM Convention. However, the installation of type-approved ballast water management systems on ships already contracted to be built in or after 2009 may not be feasible or only possible at excessive cost and/or delivery delay.

The MEPC noted two options as suggested in the report of the Review Group: (1) to amend the first application date specified in the BWM Convention; or (2) to develop an exemption procedure for the first set of vessels.

In response to the above suggested options, the Chairman of the MEPC stated that the amendment procedure of the BWM Convention (described in Article 19) could not be applied until the Convention is in force. The Committee strongly urged all Member Governments to ratify the Convention at their earliest convenience so that either amendments or exemptions could be considered by the MEPC as soon as the conditions for entry into force are satisfied.

In order to address the concerns related to the availability of appropriate technologies, the Committee invited Administrations to develop recommendations to ensure that owners allow for technology to be included in ship design; invited Administrations with land-based testing facilities to supply information to the next session of the Committee (in July 2007) on the existence, utilization, capacity, accreditation and capabilities of their facilities; and invited Member States and observers to submit information on the estimated number of vessels in the first category to which the Convention may apply.

The MEPC noted that, to date, only six countries representing 0.62% of the world tonnage had become contracting States to the BWM Convention and once again urged Member States to ratify it at the earliest possible opportunity.

Prevention of air pollution from ships
The MEPC agreed a work plan, with a timetable, to identify and develop the mechanisms needed to achieve the limitation or reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from ships, noting that climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuel is a steadily growing concern for most countries. The MEPC noted that shipping, although an environmentally friendly and fuel-efficient mode of transport, nevertheless, needs to take action on greenhouse gases (GHG).

The work plan provides for the further development of the CO2 Emission Indexing Scheme, with Member States and the industry asked to continue to carry out trials in accordance with the Interim Guidelines for Voluntary Ship CO2 Emission Indexing for Use in Trials (MEPC/Circ.471, issued in 2005); the consideration and evaluation of methodology for CO2 emission baseline(s); and the consideration of technical, operational and market-based methods for dealing with GHG emissions. The aim is to complete the work by 2008/2009.

Following discussions in the Working Group on Air Pollution, the MEPC moved forward with other issues relating to air pollution as follows:

  it agreed eight unified interpretations relating to the implementation and enforcement of MARPOL Annex VI, the NOx Technical Code and related guidelines;
  it approved the standard form of the Sulphur Emissions Control Area (SECA) Compliance Certificate to facilitate uniform enforcement and port State control;
  it approved the establishment of a correspondence group to develop washwater discharge criteria for exhaust gas SOx cleaning systems;
  regarding standardization of on-shore power supply connections with ships, it agreed that a global standard would benefit the shipping industry but agreed to await the finalization of such a standard before taking any decision on its possible inclusion in the revised MARPOL Annex VI, noting that the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (EIC) have established a working group on standardization of on-shore power supply for ships at berth; and
  it agreed that that co-operation between the secretariats of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and IMO should be strengthened and that developments related to GHG emissions in both Organizations should be communicated to each other.

The Sub-Committee on Bulk Liquids and Gases (BLG) is currently undertaking a comprehensive review of MARPOL Annex VI and the NOx Technical Code and an intersessional meeting of the BLG Air Pollution Working Group will be held from 13 to 17 November 2006 in Oslo, Norway, to progress the work further.

Sulphur monitoring
The MEPC noted the results of monitoring of the worldwide average of sulphur content of residual fuel oils, which indicated that in 2005, almost 90% of the samples had sulphur contents between 1.5 and 4% m/m. Almost 50% was between 2 and 3% m/m. 219 out of 79,592 (0.3%) of the samples were over 4.5% m/m sulphur, and 5 samples contained more than 5% sulphur (compared to 7 samples in 2004). The sulphur content of residual fuel measured for 2003, 2004 and 2005 gave a three year rolling average for the period of 2.7%. The rolling average for 2002-2004 was 2.67%.

Inadequacy of shoreside reception facilities
The MEPC approved an Action Plan to tackle the alleged inadequacy of port reception facilities - seen as a major hurdle to overcome in order to achieve full compliance with MARPOL. The Plan was developed by the Sub-Committee on Flag State Implementation (FSI) and it is hoped that its outcome will contribute to the effective implementation of the MARPOL Convention and promote quality and environmental consciousness among administrations and shipping.

The Plan contains a list of proposed work items to be undertaken by IMO with the aim of improving the provision and use of adequate port reception facilities, including items relating to reporting requirements; provision of information on port reception facilities; identification of any technical problems encountered during the transfer of waste between ship and shore and the standardization of garbage segregation requirements and containment identification; review of the type and amount of wastes generated on board and the type and capacity of port reception facilities; revision of the IMO Comprehensive Manual on Port Reception Facilities; and development of a Guide to Good Practice on Port Reception Facilities. With regard to regional arrangements, the Committee agreed to recognize them as a means to provide reception facilities in light of the MARPOL requirements, taking into account the benefit of having such regional arrangements in place.

Review of MARPOL Annex V
The MEPC established an intersessional correspondence group to develop the framework, method of work and timetable for a comprehensive review of MARPOL Annex V Regulations for the prevention of pollution by garbage from ships and the associated Revised Guidelines for the implementation of MARPOL Annex V. The review will take into account resolution 60/30 of the UN General Assembly, which invited IMO to review MARPOL Annex V, in consultation with relevant organizations and bodies, and to assess its effectiveness in addressing sea-based sources of marine debris.

Transport of bio-fuels and bio-fuel blends
The MEPC agreed to address the increasing transport by sea of bio-fuels and bio-fuel blends as cargo, in order to clarify the regulations which apply. Bio-fuels are considered to fall under MARPOL Annex II when transported as products intended for blending with petroleum or mineral products but, when carried as blended products, it becomes unclear whether their carriage should be in accordance with MARPOL Annex I or Annex II. The MEPC instructed the Sub-Committee on Bulk Liquids and Gases (BLG) to include on its agenda a new high-priority item on "Application of requirements for the carriage of bio-fuels and bio-fuel blends", with a target completion date of 2008.

Technical Co-operation
The Committee was provided with an update on the marine environment protection- related technical co-operation activities under IMO's Integrated Technical Co-operation Programme (ITCP), the purpose of which is to assist countries in building up their human and institutional capacities for uniform and effective compliance with the Organization's regulatory framework. This covered activities carried out with IMO and donor financing, including the following programmes funded by the Global Environment Facility: Building Partnerships for Environmental Protection and Management of the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA); Building Partnerships to Assist Developing Countries to Reduce the Transfer of Harmful Aquatic Organisms in Ships' Ballast Water (GloBallast Partnerships); Development of a Regional Marine Electronic Highway (MEH) in the East Asian Seas; and the IMO/UNEP/UNIDO Guinea Current Large Marine Ecosystem (GCLME) Project. Information was also provided on the EC/MEDA financed project on EUROMED Co-operation on Maritime Safety and Prevention of Pollution from Ships (SAFEMED);

The Committee acknowledged and expressed gratitude to IMO and its partners for their financial and/or in-kind contributions to the ITCP and invited Member States, international organizations and the shipping and oil industry to continue and, if possible, increase their support.

OPRC-HNS implementation
The MEPC considered the report of the fifth meeting of the OPRC HNS Technical Group, which met in the week prior to the Committee's session and approved an MEPC circular on Briefing package for senior government officials and high-level executives in the event of major oil spills, which is intended to facilitate the preparation of a comprehensive but concise brief for senior government officials and high-level executives, as well as a revision of the Manual on oil pollution Section I - Prevention.


The MEPC also approved the Guidance document on planning and response to chemical releases in the marine environment that was prepared by the OPRC-HNS Technical Group and agreed at its fourth session.

Oil spill in Lebanon
The MEPC was provided with a status report on the response to the Lebanon oil spill and agreed that the OPRC HNS Technical Group should look into any lessons learned. What was reportedly one of the worst oil spills ever suffered in the Mediterranean resulted in an estimated 15,000 tonnes of oil escaping into the marine environment affecting over 150 km of shoreline, primarily in Lebanon, but also with some impact to the coast of southern Syria. IMO initiated numerous actions - within the framework of UNCLOS and the OPRC and Barcelona Conventions - and REMPEC, the Malta-based Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Response Centre for the Mediterranean Sea, which is jointly administered by IMO and UNEP, was activated at the earliest stages of the incident to mobilize and co-ordinate regional and international assistance; co-ordinate the development of an action plan with the participation other technical and scientific experts and organizations; and deploy various experts to support the Government of Lebanon in managing the response to the spill.
(See http://www.imo.org/home.asp?topic_id=1411 ).

IMO's Children's Initiatives
The MEPC noted with appreciation presentations made by two 12 year olds from Greece and Turkey, representing the Junior program of the International Marine Environment Protection Association (Intermepa), on their activities to protect the marine environment, as well as a range of initiatives aimed at children which were outlined by the IMO Secretary-General (See IMO Briefing 37/2006).

Briefing 38, 18 October 2006

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1GESAMP: IMO/FAO/UNESCO/IOC/WHO/IAEA/UN/UNEP Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection.
2 International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operation (OPRC Convention) and the OPRC-HNS (Hazardous and Noxious Substances) Protocol.

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