"Green Passport" for ships debated as IMO environmental meeting tackles ship recycling

As environmental issues took centre stage at IMO during the 48th session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) last week (7 to 11 October), delegates from more than 80 countries discussed a range of topics relating to the protection of the marine environment from pollution by ships.

Under the chairmanship of Australia's Mr Mike Julian, the Committee progressed its work in several key areas, including ship recycling, ballast water management and greenhouse gas emissions from ships.

Ship recycling

Draft IMO Guidelines on ship recycling were discussed in detail, with a view to producing a final draft for adoption by the next IMO Assembly in 2003.

The draft guidelines note that, in the process of recycling ships, virtually nothing goes to waste. The materials and equipment are almost entirely reused. Steel is reprocessed to become, for instance, reinforcing rods for use in the construction industry or as corner castings and hinges for containers. Ships' generators are reused ashore. Batteries find their way into the local economy. Hydrocarbons on board become reclaimed oil products to be used as fuel in rolling mills or brick kilns; light fittings find further use on land etc. Furthermore, new steel production from recycled steel requires only one third of the energy used for steel production from raw materials. Recycling makes a positive contribution to the global conservation of energy and resources and, in the process, employs a large, if predominantly unskilled, workforce. Properly handled, ship recycling is, without question, a "green" industry.

However, the guidelines recognize that, while the principle of ship recycling may be sound, the working practices and environmental standards in the yards often leave much to be desired. While ultimate responsibility for conditions in the yards has to lie with the countries in which they are situated, other stakeholders must be encouraged to contribute towards minimising potential problems in the yards.

The guidelines have been developed to give advice to all stakeholders in the recycling process, including administrations of ship building and maritime equipment supplying countries, flag, port and recycling states, as well as intergovernmental organizations and commercial bodies such as shipowners, ship builders, repairers and recycling yards.

The concept of a "Green Passport" for ships is included in the guidelines. It is envisaged that this document, containing an inventory of all materials potentially hazardous to human health or the environment, used in the construction of a ship, would accompany the ship throughout its working life. Produced by the shipyard at the construction stage and passed to the purchaser of the vessel, the document would be in a format that would enable any subsequent changes in materials or equipment to be recorded. Successive owners of the ship would maintain the accuracy of the Green Passport and incorporate into it all relevant design and equipment changes, with the final owner delivering it, with the vessel, to the recycling yard.

The MEPC agreed to refer certain key outstanding issues to various IMO Sub-Committees for further consideration.

The Ship Design and Equipment Sub-Committee (DE) and the Sub-Committee on Bulk Liquids and Gases (BLG) will be asked to produce a list of potentially hazardous materials which might be found on board ships. Such materials may be inherent in the structure of the vessel or its equipment, carried as stores or spares or generated during the normal operations of the vessel including cargo residues. The Sub-Committee on Flag State Implementation (FSI) will be asked to look into the possible future need to examine the issue of last voyages and port State control.

Ballast Water Management

The Committee is to recommend to the IMO Council that a Diplomatic Conference be convened in early 2004 to adopt a draft convention on ballast water management, following substantial progress made on the issue at this meeting and at the intersessional working group on the subject that had met prior to MEPC.

Among the outstanding issues to be resolved was the development of appropriate standards for ballast water treatment. At the previous meeting of the MEPC, 14 separate options had been developed. These have now been reduced to just two options for short term standards and a single option for long term standards which is linked to what the draft Convention is trying to achieve, a substantial reduction in the risk of transfer of harmful aquatic organisms through ballast water.

Greenhouse gases

The Committee made progress in developing a draft Assembly resolution on greenhouse gas emissions from ships and invited Members to submit comments on the draft to the next meeting of the MEPC. The Committee agreed that policy issues on greenhouse gas emission in the context of Article 2.2 of the Kyoto Protocol needed to be resolved before further action was taken on the draft resolution.

In its draft form the resolution urges the MEPC to identify and develop the mechanism or mechanisms needed to achieve the limitation or reduction of GHG emissions from international shipping, and in doing so give priority to the establishment of a GHG emission baseline, the development of a methodology to describe the GHG-efficiency of a ship expressed as a GHG-index for that ship, recognizing that CO2 is the main greenhouse gas emitted by ships. It also calls for the establishment of Guidelines by which the GHG emission index may be applied in practice. The Guidelines would take into account related cost-benefit evaluations and verification procedures and be based on an evaluation of technical, operational and market-based solutions.

It also calls for Governments, in co-operation with the shipping industry, to promote and implement voluntary measures to limit or reduce GHG emissions from international shipping, when the GHG emission indexing scheme is developed by the Marine Environment Protection Committee.

Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas (PSSAs) and Special Areas (SAs)

It was agreed to designate the Wadden Sea area in Northern Europe as a PSSA. The Committee also agreed, in principle, to designate the Paracas National Reserve in Peru as a PSSA, pending consideration of a separate proposal from Peru for an "Area to be Avoided" by the NAV Sub-Committee and approved by the Maritime Safety Committee. It was also agreed that the Oman Area of the Arabian Sea be designated as a Special Area under Annex I of MARPOL 73/78, which is expected to be adopted by MEPC 49 in July 2003.

The Committee agreed to issue a circular containing a guidance document to help Member States in preparing proposals for areas to be designated as PSSAs. The guidance contains a framework of what needs to be included in a proposal.

Note: In Annexes I, II and V, MARPOL 73/78 defines certain sea areas as "special areas" in which, for technical reasons relating to their oceanographical and ecological condition and to their sea traffic, the adoption of special mandatory methods for the prevention of sea pollution is required. Under the Convention, these special areas are provided with a higher level of protection than other areas of the sea.

A Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA) is an area that needs special protection through action by IMO because of its significance for recognized ecological or socio-economic or scientific reasons and which may be vulnerable to damage by international maritime activities. The criteria for the identification of particularly sensitive sea areas and the criteria for the designation of special areas are not mutually exclusive. In many cases a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area may be identified within a Special Area and vice versa.

Other matters

· The Committee adopted resolution MEPC.99(48) containing the amendments to the Condition Assessment Scheme, which is a mandatory requirement under the revised regulation 13G of Annex I to MARPOL 73/78.
· The Committee also adopted amendments to the list of substances subject to the 1973 Intervention Protocol by resolution MEPC.100(48).
· The Committee approved the final revised Manual on Oil Pollution: Section IV - Combating Oil Spills, and authorized its publication.
· The Committee approved, subject to MSC's concurrent decision, a draft MSC/MEPC circular on Guidelines for ships operating in Arctic ice-covered waters.
· The Committee approved, subject to the concurrence by MSC, the draft MSC/MEPC circular on Interim Guidelines to assist flag States and other substantially interested States to establish and maintain an effective framework for consultation and co-operation in marine casualty investigations.

Note to Editors:

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.

The 48th session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee was chaired by Mr Mike Julian from Australia and held at IMO Headquarters in London between 7th and 11th October 2002. The meeting was attended by delegates from 86 IMO Member States, two United Nations Specialized Agencies, five inter-governmental organizations and 35 non-governmental organizations.

This meeting was the last under the chairmanship of Mr Julian, who has served in the position since 1998. Mr Andreas Chrysostomou of Cyprus was elected to succeed Mr Julian as chairman for an initial one-year term.

Photographs of Mr Julian and of the IMO Headquarters building are available on request.

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Lee Adamson, Public Information Manager on 0207 587 3153 (ladamson@imo.org) or
Natasha Brown, Information Officer on 0207 587 3274 (nbrown@imo.org).