Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC), 78th session (opening remarks)


(6 to 10 June 2022)

Excellencies, distinguished delegates and observers, good morning, good afternoon, and good evening.

It is a pleasure for me to welcome you to the seventy-eighth session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee. This will undoubtedly be a busy session, with several high priority items on the agenda.

The global maritime community remains seriously concerned about the safety and welfare of seafarers in the area of the Black Sea and Sea of Azov and the possible impact on the marine environment, in the wake of the ongoing armed conflict in Ukraine.

The Emergency Task Force I established in the Secretariat continues to monitor the situation and advise accordingly. I encourage all Member States and observers to continue to share relevant information and collaborate, with a view to taking necessary steps to ensure the protection of seafarers, ships and the marine environment at this time of ongoing heightened tensions.

It is now more than two years since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world, we will continue to work with governments, industry and other international organisations to ensure that any recent positive trends are sustained and to examine the lessons learned for shipping and for seafarers.

Let me now turn to some of the major items on the agenda for this session.

I take this opportunity to reiterate IMO's contribution to international efforts aimed at preventing and preparing for a possible oil spill from the deteriorating FSO SAFER, which is moored off the coast of Yemen. The United Nations has produced a viable plan to address the threat and I urge delegations to contribute to these pledging efforts, launched on 11 May, as outlined in Circular Letter No. 4561. (Download CL)

Needless to say, one of the main topics during this virtual meeting will be the further discussion on the reduction of GHG emissions from international shipping.

Recent reports from the International Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) and other relevant bodies have made it clear that we are no longer considering climate change as impacting future generations, but with the very real and present threat to our generation. We need to work together, embracing multilateralism in addressing climate change and promoting regional and international cooperation to strengthen climate action.

MEPC 77 initiated the revision of the Initial GHG Strategy to build on the achievements we have collectively made thus far.

Whilst progress has been made on many of the measures set out in the Initial Strategy, I am sure that we can all agree that further action is needed. Your discussions this week will chart the way forward for the decarbonization of international shipping.

It is therefore of utmost importance that IMO continues to deliver concrete progress in transitioning international shipping from fossil fuels to low and zero-carbon alternatives.

It is our duty to join worldwide commitments of increased ambition towards tackling climate change. I appreciate the commitment and the efforts of all Member States and the industry for the outstanding work and achievements we have made so far.

Now we must be brave and let our industry lead by example and provide substantial progress in our work.

At this session you will consider the outcome of the eleventh and twelfth meeting of the Intersessional Working Group on Reduction of GHG Emissions from Ships (ISWG).

The Group made further progress with the development of lifecycle GHG intensity guidelines for all types of marine alternative fuels, an essential step in promoting their uptake and key to regulating the carbon and other GHG content of such fuels.

Your committee will be invited to consider a set of guidelines finalised by the Group to support implementation of carbon intensity measures which will enter into force in November this year, aiming at providing additional clarity to shipping industry and Administrations for implementing these regulations. 

I am pleased to note that following very constructive discussions, the Group agreed to advance towards the further development of a "basket of candidate mid-term measures" – integrating both technical and carbon pricing elements.

Your constructive discussions on these topics will enhance the Committee's evidence-based decision making when further considering proposals for mid-term GHG reduction measures.

I would like to take this opportunity to express my deepest appreciation to all Member States, and observer delegations, and especially the Chair of the Working Group on reduction of GHG emissions from ships, Mr. Oftedal of Norway, for the extraordinary effort and dedication in ensuring the successful outcome of both intersessional meetings.

Distinguished delegates, there are many other issues where action by the Committee is also important and urgent.

With regard to marine plastic pollution from ships, you will be asked to progress the work by considering the marking of fishing gear, as well as other matters. Earlier this year, the global community agreed to work towards a binding instrument to address plastic pollution. In light of this, the work under the IMO Action Plan and Strategy to address marine plastic litter from ships is more relevant than ever.

Regarding ballast water management, this session is particularly significant, as you will consider, among other issues, the data analysis report of the experience-building phase associated with the BWM Convention and decide on the way forward with regard to the next stage of this very important process, entailing the comprehensive review of the Convention.

Furthermore, you will consider the adoption of updated guidelines for brief sampling, inspection, and survey and certification of anti-fouling systems on ships, following the adoption, in 2021, of amendments to the AFS Convention to include controls on cybutryne.

The Committee will also be invited to consider the approval of draft amendments to MARPOL to allow States with ports in the Arctic region to enter into regional arrangements for port reception facilities.

The way forward on many of the topics to be considered at this session may be complex, but by working together with determination, I have every confidence that we will ensure that shipping will continue to make a key contribution in the fight against climate change and to achieve cleaner oceans. Collaborative and considerate actions are instrumental to making sure that no one is left behind.

I would like to take this opportunity to appreciate the financial contributions made by Member States, which help strengthen our critical work.

I would particularly like to thank Norway for their recent donation of 2 million NOK to support work under the IMO Action Plan to address marine plastic litter from ships; the Republic of Korea who donated 1.2 million US dollars through the Voyage Together Trust Fund to support a project on alternative fuels; as well as Denmark 100,000 US dollars and Japan 50 million Japanese Yen, funded by the Nippon Foundation, for their recent donations to the GHG Trust Fund. Your support is greatly appreciated, and I would encourage Member States to consider making further donations.

Distinguished delegates,

On 8 June we will celebrate World Oceans Day, and in a few weeks the world will gather in Lisbon for the second UN Ocean Conference to support the implementation of SDG 14. The ocean connects, sustains, and supports us all, and it is clear that the work we do together at IMO is a critical part of these efforts.

Distinguished delegates,

Due to unforeseen circumstances, your Chair Mr. Hideaki Saito of Japan cannot be with us this week. However, I have full confidence that your Vice-Chair, Mr. Harry Conway of Liberia, assisted by the Secretariat, will ably steer the Committee in its discussions during this meeting. With this, I wish you success in your deliberations this week.

Thank you.


MEPC preview here.