Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC), 73rd session, 22-26 October 2018

Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from ships
The MEPC approved the Programme of follow-up actions of the initial IMO strategy on reduction of GHG emissions from ships up to 2023.

The programme of action is intended to be used as a planning tool in meeting the timelines identified in the initial IMO strategy, which was adopted in April 2018. The Committee invited concrete proposals on candidate short-term measures to the next Committee session, MEPC 74 (May 2019), for consideration, as well as on the procedure for assessing the impacts on States. (See briefing 18/2018)

Fourth IMO GHG study
The MEPC developed draft terms of reference for the Fourth IMO GHG Study, which should be initiated in 2019. It was agreed that an Expert Workshop should be held in order to discuss technical and methodological issues and advise the Committee on the terms of reference of the Study. The Fourth IMO GHG Study is intended to provide an update of emissions estimates for international shipping for the period 2012 to 2018 and may include scenarios for future shipping emissions and estimates of carbon intensity. 

Fifth intersessional working group meeting
The MEPC approved the terms of reference for the fifth meeting of the Intersessional Working Group on Reduction of GHG emissions from ships, to be held ahead of MEPC 74. The intersessional group will be tasked with, among other things, considering concrete proposals for assessing the impacts on States of candidate measures; and considering concrete proposals on candidate short-term measures.

Strengthening the EEDI requirements
The MEPC received the interim report of the review of the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) “beyond phase 2”. The EEDI phases brings in increasingly greater energy efficiency requirements compared to the reference line.  

The possibility of bringing forward the phase 3 requirement to 2022 (from 2025), for certain ships, was discussed, as well as a proposal to increase the energy efficiency improvement to 40% (from 30%) for container ships. The MEPC invited concrete proposals to the next session (MEPC 74) for further discussion of the proposed amendments. 

EEDI calculation guidelines adopted
The MEPC adopted the 2018 Guidelines on the method of calculation of the attained Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) for new ships, incorporating updates to the 2014 guidelines.

Implementation of sulphur 2020 limit
The new lower 0.50% limit on sulphur in ships’ fuel oil will be in force from 1 January 2020, under IMO’s MARPOL treaty, with benefits for the environment and human health. The new limit will be applicable globally - while in designated emission control areas (ECAs) the limit will remain even lower, at 0.10%.

The MEPC adopted a MARPOL amendment to prohibit the carriage of non-compliant fuel oil for combustion purposes for propulsion or operation on board a ship - unless the ship has an exhaust gas cleaning system ("scrubber") fitted.  The MEPC also approved Guidance on ship implementation planning; and Guidance on best practice for fuel oil suppliers. (See briefing 19/2018).

Action plan on marine plastic litter adopted
The MEPC adopted an action plan to address marine plastic litter from ships, intended to contribute to the global solution for preventing marine plastic litter entering the oceans through ship based activities.

The Action Plan identifies a number of actions, which will be reviewed at MEPC 74 prior to further work being undertaken, including a proposed study on marine plastic litter from ships; looking into the availability and adequacy of port reception facilities; consideration of making marking of fishing gear mandatory; promoting the reporting of loss of fishing gear; facilitating the delivery of retrieved fishing gear to shore facilities; reviewing provisions related to the training of fishing vessel personnel and familiarization of seafarers to ensure awareness of the impact of marine plastic litter; and strengthening international cooperation, in particular the Food And Agriculture Organization (FAO) and UN Environment (See briefing 20/2018). 

Ballast water management treaty implementation
The International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments, 2004 (BWM Convention), entered into force in September 2017 and has, to date, been ratified by 79 countries, representing 80.94% of world merchant shipping tonnage. Amendments to the treaty, relating to implementation of the convention, were adopted at the last session. 

The MEPC approved Guidance on System Design Limitations of ballast water management systems and their monitoring, and Guidance for the commissioning testing of ballast water management systems.

The Committee adopted amendments to update the Guidelines for ballast water management and development of ballast water management plans (G4) to address the incorporation of information on contingency measures in ballast water management plans. 

The MEPC has recognized that there may be a need for future improvements to the BWM Convention in the light of experience gained and has approved a data gathering and analysis plan for an experience-building phase. 

Based on the experience and feedback gained, as well as the analysis of the data gathered, draft amendments to the Convention could be put forward for consideration at a future MEPC. The Committee was updated on the status of preparations for data gathering. It was agreed that two new outputs should be included in its agenda: "Review of the BWM Convention based on data gathered in the experience-building phase", and "Urgent measures emanating from issues identified during the experience-building phase of the BWM Convention", both with a target completion year of 2023. 
The Committee also instructed the Sub-committee on Human Element, Training and Watchkeeping to develop training provisions for seafarers related to the BWM Convention, with a target completion year of 2021. 

The MEPC also approved two ballast water management systems that make use of Active Substances.

Use and carriage of heavy fuel oil as fuel by ships in Arctic waters
IMO has agreed that the Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR) should develop a ban on heavy fuel oil for use and carriage as fuel by ships in Arctic waters, based on an assessment of the impacts of such a ban.

MEPC 73 considered submissions related to an appropriate impact assessment methodology process and forwarded them to PPR 6 (February 2019) to finalize the methodology.

Currently, the use and carriage of heavy fuel oil is banned in the Antarctic under MARPOL Annex I regulation 43. It is recommended in the Polar Code that the same rules are applied in the Arctic waters. 

MARPOL amendments - substances with a high viscosity or a high melting point
The MEPC approved, for future adoption, draft amendments to MARPOL Annex II to strengthen, in specified sea areas, discharge requirements for tank washings containing persistent floating products with a high-viscosity and/or a high melting point that can solidify under certain conditions (e.g. certain vegetable oils and paraffin-like cargoes).

The draft amendments follow concerns about the environmental impact of permissible discharges of such products and would tighten requirements for the discharge from ships of tank washings containing such products.

Approval of guidance and other matters    
Amongst other matters, the MEPC:

  • Adopted the 2018 Guidelines for the discharge of exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) bleed-off water.
  • Approved (for adoption in 2019) draft amendments to the International Code for the Construction and Equipment of Ships carrying Dangerous Chemicals in Bulk (IBC Code), including the draft revised chapters 17 (Summary of minimum requirements), 18 (List of products to which the code does not apply), 19 (Index of Products Carried in Bulk) and 21 (Criteria for assigning carriage requirements for products subject to the IBC Code).
  • Approved an MEPC circular on Guidelines for the carriage of energy-rich fuels and their blends.
  • Approved part IV of the Guidelines for the use of dispersants for combating oil pollution at sea, which focuses on the sub-sea application of dispersant.
  • Approved, for subsequent adoption, draft Guidelines for the use of electronic record books under MARPOL and associated draft amendments to MARPOL and the NOX Technical Code.