Revised single-hull tanker phase-out proposals on agenda at IMO environment meeting

Preview: Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) - 49th session: 14-18 July 2003

Proposals to amend certain provisions of the MARPOL Convention relating to double- hull tankers will be among the issues to be discussed during the forthcoming 49th session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC).

The Committee will convene for a week-long session at IMO Headquarters in London, from 14-18 July, under the chairmanship of Mr. Andreas Chrysostomou (Cyprus).

Other issues on a busy agenda include ballast water management, greenhouse gas emissions from ships and ship recycling.

Proposals to amend MARPOL 73/78
The proposals to amend MARPOL 73/78, submitted by all the fifteen Member States of the European Union, call for further acceleration of the phase-out timetable for single-hull tankers, an immediate ban on the carriage of heavy grades of oil in single-hull tankers and for the Condition Assessment Scheme (adopted in 2001 in the wake of the 1999 Erika incident) to be applied to tankers of 15 years of age and above.

The proposals have already been circulated among all IMO Member States and Parties to MARPOL.

IMO's Council, at its 90th session in June, sanctioned the possibility of holding an additional meeting of the MEPC this year in December. MEPC 49 will therefore be able to consider whether the holding of such a meeting is necessary, so that any measures arising from the proposals could be formally adopted.

To ensure IMO Member States have as much relevant information as possible to hand when they consider the proposals, IMO Secretary-General William O'Neil reactivated the Informal Group of Experts, which was first commissioned in 2000 to assess the likely effect of post-Erika proposals, to study the impact of the new proposals now submitted. The completed study, undertaken by independent experts nominated by industry organizations, will be available to delegates when they consider the new proposals. It takes into account criteria such as the volume of oil and oil products carried by oil tankers world-wide and by region; the number of single-hull tankers to be affected by the proposals; the capacity of shipyards needed to replace the single-hull tankers that would be withdrawn from service compared with the capacity of shipyards available world-wide; and the annual scrapping capacity of ship-recycling facilities.

Proposal for a West European PSSA
MEPC will also consider a proposal for Belgium, France, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom to designate a Particularly sensitive Sea Area (PSSA) to cover a wide sea area west of these countries together with the associated protective measures for prohibition of the carriage of heavy oils by single hull tankers - which is identical to the requirements proposed as part of the amendments to the MARPOL convention.

The MEPC will also consider a proposal from Australia and Papua New Guinea for the extension of the Great Barrier Reef PSSA to cover Torres Strait Region, together with the associated protective measures; ad the Paracas National Reserve PSSA in Peru.

Ballast water management - draft convention
The MEPC will be invited to conduct an article-by-article review of the draft International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments, taking into account the report of the second intersessional meeting of the Ballast Water Working Group. It is expected that the draft Convention will be finalized at this session through the Ballast Water Working Group for circulation to the planned Diplomatic Conference, set to be held in early 2004.

The problem of harmful aquatic organisms in ballast water was first raised at IMO in 1988 and since then the MEPC, together with MSC and technical sub-committees, has been dealing with the issue. In order to help developing countries understand the problem and monitor the situation, IMO is implementing the GEF/UNDP/IMO Global Ballast Water Management Programme (GloBallast) and has provided technical support and expertise.

The problem of invasive species is largely due to the expanded trade and traffic volume over the last few decades. The effects in the waters of Australia, Canada and the United States as well as the Black Sea have been devastating. Volumes of seaborne trade continue overall to increase and the problem may not yet have reached its peak.

Greenhouse gases
The MEPC is expected to finalise a draft Assembly resolution on IMO policies and practices related to reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from ships.

MEPC 49 will also be invited to review the status of MARPOL Annex VI on air pollution, including identification of the impediments to entry into force of the Annex, bearing in mind that the entry into force conditions had not been met by 31 December 2002.

Ship recycling
The MEPC is expected to finalize the draft IMO Guidelines on Ship Recycling for submission to the 23rd Assembly later this year for adoption.

The draft 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 will 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.

Draft guidelines and resolutions to be adopted
The following MEPC resolutions are expected to be adopted at this session:

- MEPC resolution on Tripartite Agreement
- MEPC resolution on Revised Guidelines for the approval of the alternative methods of design of oil tankers under regulation13F(5) of Annex I of MARPOL 73/78
- MEPC resolution on Guidelines for on-board NOx verification procedure
- MEPC resolution on revised Guidelines and specifications for pollution control equipment for machinery space bilges of ships
- MEPC resolution on Revised Guidelines and specifications for oil discharge monitoring and control systems for oil tankers
- MEPC resolution on Guidelines for inspections of ships' anti-fouling systems

Application of MARPOL to FPSOs and FSUs
The MEPC is expected to approve an MEPC circular on Guidelines for the application of MARPOL Annex I requirements to FPSOs and FSUs.

Approval of the revised text of MARPOL Annex I and Annex II
The MEPC will also consider with a view to approval the new versions of Annex I and Annex II of the MARPOL Convention, together with the proposed new categorization system for noxious and liquid substances. Requirements for the carriage of vegetable oils will be considered.

Other issues
Other important matters on the MEPC agenda at this session include:

Anti-fouling Systems
The MEPC will review for adoption by MEPC resolution two sets of draft guidelines relating to the 2001 International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-fouling Systems on Ships: draft Guidelines for brief sampling of anti-fouling systems and draft Guidelines for inspections of ships anti-fouling systems. The guidelines have been developed by the Sub-Committee on flag State Implementation.

Implementation of the OPRC Convention and the OPRC-HNS Protocol
The MEPC will be invited to consider a revised draft of the guidance document on bioremediation; the draft Terms of Reference for an OPRC and OPRC-HNS Protocol Technical Group; a progress report from the Correspondence Group on the Review of the Manual on Chemical Pollution; and an action plan to promote the recommendations of the Third Research and Development Forum on High Density Oil Response.

11 July 2003


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