IMO reaches agreement on single-hull tanker phase-out
Protection Committee 45th session: 2-6 October 2000
The IMO has successfully
achieved the first, formal step towards a global timetable for the accelerated
phasing-out of single-hull oil tankers. It came with the approval late on Friday
(October 6th) by the 45th session of its Marine Environment Protection Committee
(MEPC 45) of a working group report on proposed amendments to MARPOL 73/78.
The approval paves the way for the adoption of a revised regulation 13G of MARPOL
at MEPC 46, the timing of which has already been brought forward to April 2001
to accommodate the swiftest possible introduction of new rules.
In its draft revision of MARPOL regulation 13G, the MEPC working group identified
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.
The draft revision sets out two clear alternative schemes, A and B, for phasing-out
single-hull tankers. Both schemes would see Category 1 vessels phased-out progressively
between 1 January 2003 and 1 January 2007, depending on their year of delivery.
Category 2 tankers built in 1986 or earlier would be phased out after their
25th year of operation under both schemes, but Category 2 ships built after
1986 would be phased out between 2012 and 2015 under Alternative A and between
2012 and 2017 under Alternative B. For Category 3 tankers, both schemes entail
progressive phasing out of tankers built in or before 1987 phased-out between
2003 and 2013, but ships built after 1987 would be phased out between 2013 and
2015 for ships under scheme A and between 2013 and 2017 under scheme B.
The working group also agreed that continued operation of Category 2 oil tankers
beyond 2010 should only be permitted to high quality ships which had been subject
to a Condition Assessment Scheme (CAS). An informal group prepared a preliminary
and non-exhaustive list of underlying principles to be addressed in considering
the scheme. These elements can be categorised in three sections - checks on
the physical condition of the vessel; checks on documentation recording its
past performance; and possible improvements in survey and inspection practice.
It was stressed that the introduction of a CAS should not undermine the Enhanced
Survey Programme (ESP) system under resolution A. 744 (18) and that the scheme
would assume that vessels should pass their ESPs.
Some delegations, however, expressed serious concern about the practicability
of implementing such a scheme, given that its details had yet to be discussed
at any length. The Committee agreed that this matter needed to be settled before
MEPC 46, and agreed to set up an Intersessional Working Group, from 31 January
to 2 February 2001, pending approval by the Council, to address the Condition
Assessment Scheme in detail.
There was general agreement at the meeting that phasing-out of single-hull tankers
should be seen as just one of several measures needed to help eliminate sub-standard
tankers. To this end, the working group drew up a preliminary list of topics
to be considered in this regard. The Committee invited the Maritime Safety Committee
(MSC) to establish a working group at MSC 73, in November, to examine fully
all the measures listed and, initially, separate the list into maritime safety
and environmentally related issues. MSC would also request the technical sub-committees
BLG 6, FSI 9 and DE 44 to develop relevant issues further and
to report to MEPC and MSC with a proposed implementation plan.
Most delegations greeted the proposed revision of regulation 13G with a cautious
welcome, and many expressed their approval of the constructive spirit in which
the meeting had addressed the issue. The delegation of the United States, however,
reserved its position on the draft text, stating that it had hoped a position
closer to that enshrined in its own national regulations (OPA 90) would be reached.
The delegation of Brazil said that, while it had devoted all its efforts to
participation in the working group, it felt that the problem would be better
approached from a different angle, and that political considerations should
not be the driving force behind new regulations. The delegation of Chile agreed
and, although recognizng that IMO had strengthened its position as the competent
rulemaking body for international shipping, urged the organization to remain
a technical regulatory body.
The committee formally thanked Denmark for co-ordinating the consultations throughout
the summer which had resulted in the compromise proposal. Speaking at the close
of the meeting, IMO Secretary-General William ONeil told delegates, "You
have clearly demonstrated that IMO has responded to this problem in a rapid
and timely fashion, and the members are prepared to work diligently to achieve
an acceptable solution." He went on, "I feel confident that you will
be able to attend to the outstanding issues before your next meeting and we
look forward to achieving a solution which will respond to the needs of the
forum in 2002 to address high-density oil spills
In a related development, the MEPC agreed to hold a Research and Development
Forum in March 2002 which will focus primarily on response to spills of high-density
oil. France will host the forum, which will be the third R&D Forum sponsored
High-density fuel oils, or heavy fuel oil, such as that carried by the Erika,
are among the most difficult and most costly to deal with when spilled because
of their highly persistent nature and the damage they cause to the marine environment.
45 summary of other issues discussed
Systems draft convention approved in principle
The MEPC approved in principle the draft International Convention on the Control
of Harmful Anti-fouling Systems. A number of its articles remain open for discussion,
such as entry-into-force criteria, before the planned Conference to adopt the
convention in late 2001.
This move comes in response to Assembly resolution A.895 (21) Anti-fouling systems
used on ships, adopted by IMO in November 1999, which calls 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 calls 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
on the presence of organotin compounds which act as biocides in anti-fouling
systems on ships by 1 January 2008.
Under the terms of the proposed new Convention, Parties to the Convention would
be required to prohibit and/or restrict the use of harmful anti-fouling systems
on ships flying their flag. The Convention would apply to all ships, and ships
above a certain size (to be decided) would be required to have their anti-fouling
systems surveyed and to carry an anti-fouling certificate. Anti-fouling systems
to be prohibited or controlled would be listed in Annex I of the Convention.
Initially, the annex would include reference to "organotin compounds which
act as biocides in anti-fouling systems".
The Convention would allow for other substances to be included in the Annex
and sets out a procedure for this: a proposal for a particular substance to
be prohibited or restricted would be put before an expert group established
by IMO which would assess the adverse affects of the particular anti-fouling
system. The Convention would provide an agreed format for an international anti-fouling
certificate and set out procedures for survey and certification.
aquatic organisms in ballast water
An MEPC Working Group further developed draft new regulations for ballast water
management to prevent the transfer of harmful aquatic organisms in ballast water.
It is planned to hold a diplomatic conference during 2002 or 2003 to adopt the
The proposed instrument is a new international convention "for the control
and management of ships' ballast water and sediments." It is estimated
that about 10 billion tonnes of ballast water are transferred globally each
year, potentially transferring from one location to another species of sealife
that may prove ecologically harmful when released into a non-native environment.
The proposed new instrument is being developed on the basis of a two-tier approach.
Tier 1 includes requirements that would apply to all ships, including mandatory
requirements for a Ballast Water and Sediments Management Plan, a Ballast Water
Record Book and a requirement that new ships shall carry out ballast water and
sediment management procedures to a given standard or range of standards. Existing
ships would be required to carry out ballast water management procedures after
a phase-in period, but these procedures may differ from those to be applied
to new ships.
Tier 2 includes special requirements which may apply in certain areas and would
include procedures and criteria for the designation of such areas in which additional
controls may be applied to the discharge and/or uptake of ballast water. The
text for Tier 2 remains to be developed.
The working group confirmed that ballast exchange on the high seas is the only
widely used technique currently available to prevent the spread of unwanted
aquatic organisms in ballast water and its use should continue to be accepted.
However, it was stressed that this technique has a number of limitations. Because
it is of variable efficiency in removing organisms, the percentage removed depends
on the type of organism. The discharged water quality depends on the original
quality of the water taken up. It is also has geographical limits. Existing
ships may subject to operational constraints, but it was recognised that new
ships may be designed to accommodate ballast exchange in a much wider range
The Working Group concluded that development of alternative treatment technologies
might produce techniques that were substantially more reliable and that ballast
water exchange is an interim solution. The draft ballast water instrument will
be further reviewed and developed at the next session.
Areas and Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas
reviewed new draft guidelines for the designation of Special Areas under MARPOL
73/78 and new draft guidelines for the identification of Particularly Sensitive
Sea Areas (PSSAs) and agreed additional material to be drafted before the next
session, MEPC 46, which would approve the guidelines. This additional material
would include a flow-chart to assist Member States in deciding the most appropriate
measures in providing protection to sensitive sea areas. After approval at the
next session, a proposed draft Assembly resolution would be put forward to the
22nd Assembly in November 2001 for adoption.
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 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.
of air pollution from ships
The MEPC considered a study commissioned by IMO into greenhouse gas emissions
from ships and agreed to discuss, at its next session, the development of a
document outlining IMO policy on the issue. The study follows the adoption in
1997 of Annex VI of MARPOL on Regulations for the Prevention of Air Pollution
The study shows that the impact of nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from ships
continues to be the main policy driver. There are no accurate assessments of
the contribution of shipping to global NOx emissions. However, studies show
that shipping is a small contributor to world carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions,
accounting for 1.8 percent of world CO2 emissions in 1996.
The study notes that there is potential for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions
from ships through technical and operational measures. At the same time, shipping
has been confirmed to be a significant contributor in the development of environmentally
of amendments to IMO instruments
The Committee adopted the following amendments:
1. Amendments to MARPOL 73/78 Annex V Prevention of Pollution by Garbage from Ships
2. Amendments to IBC and BCH Codes