Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC), 76th session (opening remarks)

by Kitack Lim, Secretary-General, IMO

Thursday, 10 June 2021

Excellencies, distinguished delegates and observers,

Good morning, Good afternoon, Good evening.

It is a great pleasure for me to welcome you to this virtual meeting of the seventy-sixth session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee.

In spite of the heavy workload of the session, you have made good progress during the correspondence period prior to the meeting, and I take this opportunity to express my gratitude for the spirit of cooperation.

We begin this meeting with the very welcome news that I have received the 100th ratification of MARPOL Annex VI with the deposit by Argentina of their instrument of accession.

A substantial part of this virtual meeting will be dedicated to the crucial work on the reduction of GHG emissions from shipping.

IMO, as the global regulator and global forum for shipping matters, adopted the first mandatory measures to improve energy efficiency of new build ships through amendments to MARPOL Annex VI nearly 10 years ago and has been strengthening this framework since then.

Let me emphasize the importance of IMO to deliver on the implementation of the Initial GHG Strategy, which will ensure achieving the levels of ambition and providing a globally harmonized regulatory framework, in line with the Paris Agreement.

The Strategy has set us on a collective course to decarbonization of shipping, and we must deliver on what we have agreed to do in 2018 step-by-step.

We have made good progress on many of the candidate measures laid out in the Strategy.

Despite the enormous challenges imposed on all of us by the global pandemic, at your last session, you approved the short-term measure to cut carbon intensity of all ships by at least 40% reduction by 2030.

The short-term measure has introduced important new concepts such as carbon intensity, a rating system and strengthening of the SEEMP into our global framework. 

These elements will provide important building blocks for our future work.

The Committee is now invited to adopt this set of draft amendments.

The stakes are high, adoption of short-term measures at this session is crucial to our ability to deliver on the commitments we have made in our initial strategy.

Let me be blunt, failure is not an option, as if we fail in our quest, it is not unreasonable to conclude that we run the risk of having unilateral or multilateral initiatives. But, I have full confidence that you will demonstrate that the IMO can be trusted to deliver on commitments it has already agreed.

In this connection, the work on the comprehensive impact assessment has proven to be instrumental to the Committee's evidence-based decision making, and I wish to thank the Steering Committee and its coordinator, Mr. Harry Conway of Liberia, for their efforts.

This work is exemplary, provided good lessons-learned and will continue to play its crucial role in the development of mid-/long-term measures to fulfil our commitments in the Strategy while ensuring that no one is left behind.

I would like to suggest that the Committee in future consider mechanisms to support developing countries against dis-proportionate negative impacts and disruptions to trade.

I would also like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation to the Working Group on reduction of GHG emissions from ships (ISWG-GHG 8), under the leadership of Mr. Sveinung Oftedal of Norway, for their hard work, developing guidelines related to EEXI, CII and its rating system.

I am of course aware that there may be some remaining work concerning the reduction factors, before the adoption of the 2021 Guidelines on the operational carbon intensity reduction factors relative to reference lines (G3 Guidelines).

I urge all delegates to work together and exhort all of you to break new ground and to demonstrate the best cooperative spirit, in the interest of the Organization keeping in mind that the reduction factors will be further strengthened in the course of implementation and experience gained. 

We will also see discussion of revised proposals from Member States and industry for the establishment of an International Maritime Research Board and Fund (IMRB), as well as proposals for a GHG workplan to structure discussions on mid- and long-term candidate measures in future sessions. 

 The move from fossil fuels is key to achieving decarbonization.

I am pleased to note the work being undertaken by the Committee in this regard including concrete proposals on mid- and long-term measures.

The interest and submissions received are a clear indication of the importance for the Organization to continue to lead on reduction of GHG emissions from shipping.

No single stakeholder can make decarbonization of shipping a reality by acting alone.

With your strong commitment to finalizing the short-term measure at this session as a key starting point and agreeing on a way forward to structure future discussions, IMO will demonstrate that it is on the right pathway of GHG reduction consistent with the Paris Agreement temperature goals.

It will also reinforce the message that IMO is the only global forum to address climate-friendly maritime transport to any sceptic who might think otherwise.

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

In the context of prevention of air pollution from ships, you will consider the proposals to enhance guidance on the discharge water from exhaust gas cleaning systems (EGCS) into the aquatic environment, and draft terms of reference for further work on reduction of impacts on the Arctic of black carbon emissions from international shipping.

With regard to the Action Plan to address marine plastic litter from ships, you are expected to consider the marking of fishing gear and the development of a draft Strategy to Address Marine Plastic Litter from Ships.

It is important to progress this work to enable IMO, in cooperation with other UN agencies and international organizations, to take more informed and effective action to address marine plastic litter.

Underwater noise from commercial vessels has been recognized by an increasing number of studies as a serious environmental concern, and you are invited to consider the related proposed new output ("Review of the 2014 Guidelines for the reduction of underwater noise from commercial shipping to address adverse impacts on marine life and identification of next steps").

Your agenda also includes the adoption of several draft amendments, in addition to MARPOL Annex VI to reduce carbon intensity of international shipping as I have already mentioned,

-    exemption of Unmanned non-self-propelled (UNSP) barges from survey and certification requirements, that forms part of a draft revised consolidated MARPOL Annex VI, incorporating all previous amendments;
-    draft amendments to MARPOL Annex I concerning the prohibition on the use and carriage for use as fuel of heavy fuel oil by ships in Arctic waters; and
-    draft amendments to the AFS Convention concerning controls on cybutryne and the form of the International Anti-Fouling System Certificate.

Your Committee's very busy agenda illustrates that our work here at IMO is intrinsically linked to the sustainable management and governance of the ocean.

In celebrating the UN World Oceans Day (8 June 2021) with the theme of "The Ocean: Life and Livelihoods",

I am pleased to announce that IMO will host a webinar on the "Role of IMO in ocean governance", on 23 June, in cooperation with IMO family institutes and organizations, WMU, IMLI, IOPCF and IMSO, and I encourage you all to attend.

Distinguished delegates, Even though IMO cannot hold face-to-face meetings at this stage, we have gained experience with holding virtual meetings, and I am confident that your able Chair, Mr. Hideaki Saito of Japan, supported by the Vice-Chair, Mr. Harry Conway of Liberia, and assisted by the Secretariat, will steer the Committee's discussions towards a successful conclusion during the days ahead.

I look forward to a fruitful meeting.  

Thank you.