IMO reaches agreement on single-hull tanker phase-out

Marine Environment 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 O’Neil 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 world community."

R&D 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 by IMO.

    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.

MEPC 45 – summary of other issues discussed

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Anti-fouling Systems - The MEPC approved in principle the draft International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-fouling Systems. A number of issues remain open for discussion, such as entry-into-force criteria, before the planned Conference to adopt the convention in late 2001.
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Harmful 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 new measures.
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Special Areas and Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas - The MEPC 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. The MEPC agreed additional material to be drafted ahead of the next session, MEPC 46, which would approve the revised guidelines.
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Prevention of air pollution by ships - The MEPC considered an IMO-commissioned study into greenhouse gas emissions from ships and agreed to discuss, at the next session, the development of a document outlining IMO policy on the issue.
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Adoption of amendments to IMO instruments - The MEPC adopted amendments to MARPOL Annex V, the International Code for the Construction and Equipment of Ships carrying Dangerous Chemicals in Bulk (IBC Code) and the Code for the Construction and Equipment of Ships carrying Dangerous Chemicals in Bulk (BCH Code) relating to cargo hose requirements, protection of personnel and carriage of carbon disulphide.

Anti-fouling 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.

Harmful 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 new measures.

    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 of circumstances.

    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.

Special Areas and Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas

   The MEPC 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.

Prevention 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 from Ships.

    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 sustainable transport.

Adoption 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

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An amendment to regulation 3(1)(a) of Annex V prohibits the disposal into the sea of incinerator ashes from plastics products which may contain toxic or heavy metal residues from other garbage.
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An amendment to regulation 1 Definitions amends the definition of "from nearest land" in relation to the north-eastern coast of Australia.
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Amendments to regulation 9 on Placards, garbage management plans and garbage record-keeping allow for placards and plans to be written in Spanish as an alternative to English or French - in addition to the official language of the flag State.
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The amendments will enter into force under "tacit acceptance" on 1 March 2002.

 

2. Amendments to IBC and BCH Codes

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The MEPC adopted amendments to the International Code for the Construction and Equipment of Ships carrying Dangerous Chemicals in Bulk (IBC Code) and the Code for the Construction and Equipment of Ships carrying Dangerous Chemicals in Bulk (BCH Code) relating to cargo hose requirements, protection of personnel and carriage of carbon disulphide.
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The amendments will enter into force on 1 July 2002 under tacit acceptance.

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