Ballast water management and ship recycling on agenda at IMO environmental meeting

Ballast water management, air pollution and recycling of ships are amongst the major issues to be addressed by the 47th session of the International Maritime Organization’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) which meets from 4 to 8 March at IMO headquarters in London.

Reducing the effects of harmful organisms in ships’ ballast water

The management of ballast water has become an important issue in international efforts to reduce harmful effects from shipping. When a ship takes on ballast water, it may also inadvertently ingest a soup of microscopic aquatic organisms, some of which may be toxic, others potentially harmful if removed from their own local ecosystem and introduced into another when discharged. Alien species that have no natural enemies can reproduce dramatically and cause tremendous damage.

MEPC 47 will review a draft text of the proposed International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments and a working group will be convened during the meeting to push this work forward. If sufficient progress is made at this and the next session (October 2002), a Diplomatic Conference may be convened in 2003 to adopt this Convention.

Ballast water exchange at sea while the ship is en route to its next port of call is currently the only widely used technique for preventing the spread of unwanted aquatic organisms in ships’ ballast water. But this technique has a number of limitations. Ship safety is a main concern, with weather and sea conditions playing a critical role in determining when ‘at-sea exchange’ is safe. It is, however, likely that new ships will be designed to accommodate ballast exchange in a much wider range of circumstances. Moreover, the percentage of organisms successfully removed by the method depends largely on the type of organism.

A key part of the convention will be to agree on standards, which should guide the development of ballast water treatment techniques. These techniques should be applied on board a vessel and should be: (1) safe for the ship and crew; (2) environmentally acceptable; (3) practical; (4) cost effective; and (5) biologically effective.

Ship Recycling

The Committee will review the report of a Correspondence Group on Ship Recycling, which was set up to look further into IMO’s perceived role in the matter. MEPC 47 is expected to establish a Working Group to discuss the issue in depth.

IMO’s role in the recycling of ships, the terminology used to refer to ship scrapping, was first raised at the 44th MEPC session in March 2000 following which a correspondence group was established to research this issue and provide a range of information about current ship recycling practices and suggestions on the role of IMO.

Since the last MEPC session in April 2001, the correspondence group has been tasked with the following objectives:

(a)
to identify all stakeholders and their perceived roles during the life-cycle of a ship;
(b) 
to identify and elaborate on the perceived role of IMO in ship recycling;
 (c)  
to identify the existing international, national and additional industry and/or other relevant standards/guidelines, possibly applicable to ship recycling within the perceived role of IMO;
(d) 
to recommend possible courses of action for further consideration by the Committee, and to identify the pros and cons associated with each option.

The MEPC is expected to discuss proposals to develop IMO guidelines on ship recycling, initially to cover preparation of ships before recycling commences.

Greenhouse gas emissions 

The MEPC is expected to establish a Working Group during the session to:

(a)   evaluate proposals for greenhouse gas emissions reduction contained in the IMO Study on Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Ships;
(b) collate and evaluate information submitted by Members;
(c)    draw up a work plan; and
(d) prepare materials for consideration in developing an IMO Strategy for greenhouse gas reduction.

It is expected that the MEPC, through the Working Group, will devise a framework of the IMO Strategy for greenhouse gas reduction for further consideration at MEPC 48.

The MEPC will also consider matters relating to progress towards implementation of Annex VI on Prevention of Air Pollution 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).  The regulations in this annex, when they come into force, will set limits on sulphur oxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from ship exhausts and prohibit deliberate emissions of ozone depleting substances.

The Annex was adopted in September 1997 and will enter into force 12 months after being ratified by 15 States whose combined fleets of merchant shipping constitute at least 50% of the world fleet. To date, four acceptances representing 14.05 per cent of world tonnage have been received.  A Resolution (adopted by the conference that adopted Annex VI) invites IMO's Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) to identify any impediments to entry into force of the Protocol, if the conditions for entry into force have not been met by 31 December 2002.

Tanker Condition Assessment Scheme – Model Survey Plan

MEPC 47 will consider with a view to approval the Model Survey Plan for tankers which is part of the Condition Assessment Scheme (CAS) for certain tankers. The CAS was adopted in April 2001 during the adoption of a revised regulation 13G of the MARPOL Convention Annex I on the prevention of pollution by oil from ships. The revised regulation is expected to enter into force in September 2002.

The CAS will have to be applied to certain Category 1 vessels continuing to trade after 2005 and certain Category 2 vessels after 2010.

Although the CAS does not specify structural standards in excess of the provisions of other IMO conventions, codes and recommendations, its requirements stipulate more stringent and transparent verification of the reported structural condition of the ship and that documentary and survey procedures have been properly carried out and completed.

The requirements of the CAS include enhanced and transparent verification of the reported structural condition of the ship and verification that the documentary and survey procedures have been properly carried out and completed. The Scheme requires that compliance with the CAS is assessed during the Enhanced Survey Programme of Inspections concurrent with intermediate or renewal surveys currently required by resolution A.744(18), as amended.

The revised regulation 13G sets a new accelerated phase-out schedule for single hull oil tankers.

It identifies three categories of tankers, as follows: “Category 1 oil tanker” means oil tankers of 20,000 tons deadweight and above carrying crude oil, fuel oil, heavy diesel oil or lubricating oil as cargo, and of 30,000 tons deadweight and above carrying other oils, which do not comply with the requirements for protectively located segregated ballast tanks (commonly known as Pre-MARPOL tankers). “Category 2 oil tanker” means oil tankers of 20,000 tons deadweight and above carrying crude oil, fuel oil, heavy diesel oil or lubricating oil as cargo, and of 30,000 tons deadweight and above carrying other oils, which do comply with the protectively located segregated ballast tank requirements (MARPOL tankers), while “Category 3 oil tanker” means an oil tanker of 5,000 tons deadweight and above but less than the tonnage specified for Category 1 and 2 tankers.

Harmful effects of the use of anti-fouling paints for ships

The MEPC will consider follow-up action to the adoption in October 2001 of the International Convention on the control of harmful anti-fouling systems on ships. Under the terms of the new Convention, Parties to the Convention are required to prohibit and/or restrict the use of harmful anti-fouling systems on ships flying their flag, as well as ships not entitled to fly their flag but which operate under their authority and all ships that enter a port, shipyard or offshore terminal of a Party.  

The harmful environmental effects of organotin compounds were recognized by IMO in 1989.   In 1990 IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) adopted a resolution which recommended that Governments adopt measures to eliminate the use of anti-fouling paint containing TBT on non-aluminium hulled vessels of less than 25 metres in length and eliminate the use of anti-fouling paints with a leaching rate of more than four microgrammes of TBT per day.  

In November 1999, IMO adopted an Assembly resolution that called on the MEPC to develop an instrument, legally binding throughout the world, to address the harmful effects of anti-fouling systems used on ships.  The resolution called for a global prohibition on the application of organotin compounds which act as biocides in anti-fouling systems on ships by 1 January 2003, and a complete prohibition by 1 January 2008.

The new convention will enter into force 12 months after 25 States representing 25% of the world's merchant shipping tonnage have ratified it.

Annex I attached to the Convention and adopted by the Conference states that by an effective date of 1 January 2003, all ships shall not apply or re-apply organotins compounds which act as biocides in anti-fouling systems.

By 1 January 2008 (effective date), ships either:

(a)   shall not bear such compounds on their hulls or external parts or surfaces; or
(b)     shall bear a coating that forms a barrier to such compounds leaching from the underlying non-compliant anti-fouling systems.

This applies to all ships (excluding fixed and floating platforms, floating storage units (FSUs), and Floating Production Storage and Offtake units (FPSOs).

Special Areas and Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas 

            The Committee will consider giving final approval to the designation of two new areas as Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas (PSSA): around the Florida Keys proposed by the United States and the PSSA for Malpelo Island proposed by Colombia. The MEPC approved the two PSSAs in principle at its last session but is expected to review input from the Sub-Committee on Safety of Navigation (NAV) relating to any navigational issues in the two proposals, before making a final decision.

Other issues

MEPC 47 will also discuss and review a number of other issues including a consolidated revised draft of Section IV of the Manual on Oil Pollution and preparations for the 3rd International R&D Forum to be held in Brest, France from 11-13 March 2002, which will examine research and development of new technology in oil spill response, particularly regarding spills of  high density or heavy oils like bunker oil.

Note to Editors:

The 47th session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee will be chaired by Mr Mike Julian from Australia and will be held at IMO Headquarters in London between 4th and 8th March.. 

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

Web site: www.imo.org

For further information please contact:

Lee Adamson, Public Information Manager on 0207 587 3153 (ladamson@imo.org) or

Natasha Brown, Information Officer on 0207 587 3274 (nbrown@imo.org).