Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 79) - 12-16 December 2022, opening remarks


Good morning, excellencies, distinguished delegates, and observers.

It is a pleasure for me to welcome you to the seventy-ninth session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee and to see so many familiar faces assembled here in the Main Hall, and with many also making use of the hybrid capabilities to connect remotely. It is your first MEPC meeting in person since MEPC 74 in May 2019 and it will undoubtedly be a busy session, with several priority items on the agenda.

The ongoing military conflict in Ukraine remains a matter of grave concern at all levels, not least its major impact on the safety and welfare of seafarers; the safety of shipping operations and ships, particularly those stranded in the affected areas; and disruptions to the global supply chain.

I am pleased to inform the Committee of the approval by the IMO Council at C 128 of the establishment of a Voluntary Multi-Donor Trust Fund for the purpose of assisting developing countries, in particular Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS), in attending the meetings of the MEPC and ISWG-GHG. I would like to encourage IMO Member States to donate to this important Fund.

Time is of the essence so please allow me to turn to some of the major items on the agenda for this session.

One of the main topics during this meeting will be furthering consideration of the reduction of GHG emissions from international shipping. As you know COP 27 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) concluded just three weeks ago in Egypt.

COP 27 recognized the 'urgency to rapidly transform energy systems to be more secure, reliable, and resilient, including by accelerating clean and just transitions to renewable energy during this critical decade of action'.

The IMO Secretariat contributed to and participated in numerous events throughout the COP, and I observed the strong interest in the work of IMO, in particular how future regulatory signals could encourage the production of alternative low- and zero-carbon fuels for shipping and the related necessary expansion of renewable energy production.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Government of Egypt for successful organising and progress at COP 27.

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

I welcome the strong commitment to finalize the revision of the initial strategy at MEPC 80 and increase the levels of ambition, while considering the needs of developing states. Essential work must be completed to set the path for the decarbonization of the shipping industry, in line with the objectives of the Paris Agreement.

Your committee will be invited to approve the outcome of the lessons-learned exercise relating to the comprehensive impact assessment of the short-term measures, and in particular, the finalized review of the Procedure for assessing impact on States of candidate measures, as well as further progress on the basket of candidate 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 believe MEPC 80, in July 2023, will be a historic moment for IMO to showcase to the world its determined maritime decarbonization strategy.

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. Sveinung Oftedal of Norway, for the extraordinary effort and dedication in ensuring the successful outcome of the intersessional meeting.

Distinguished delegates,

There are many other issues on the agenda where action by the Committee is as important and urgent.

With regard to ballast water management (BWM), at this session you will further consider a variety of matters including, inter alia: compliance with the BWM Convention for ships operating at ports with challenging water quality; the storage of treated sewage and grey water in ballast tanks; various issues relating to the ballast water record book including an amendment to its form; amendments to the example ballast water reporting form; unified interpretations to provisions of the BWM Convention; and the application of the BWM Convention to specific ship types.

On marine plastic litter, you will consider a consultant's report presenting an analysis of the terms of reference for the envisaged Study on marine plastic litter from ships.

Your agenda for this meeting also includes the adoption of draft amendments to MARPOL Annexes I, II, IV, V and VI concerning regional reception facilities in Arctic waters, as well as information to be included in the bunker delivery note and information to be submitted to the IMO Ship Fuel Oil Consumption Database under MARPOL Annex VI. Another important amendment expected to be adopted is the establishment of a SOx Emission Control area for the Mediterranean Sea.

You will also consider the proposal to establish a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA) in the North-Western Mediterranean Sea, to protect cetaceans from risk of ship collisions, ship-generated pollution and to increase awareness on a critically important area for two whale species.

Distinguished delegates,

On 15 November 2022, the UN marked the day the world's population was projected to reach eight billion people, a milestone in human development. By working together with determination, your Committee can ensure shipping helps create a greener, more equitable and more sustainable maritime future for all those people.

As we meet this week, the Convention on Biological Diversity is currently convening for its 15th Conference of Parties (COP 15), a meeting which is expected to adopt the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. At the end of November countries met for the first session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for the new treaty to address plastic pollution, as agreed by the United Nations Environment Assembly earlier this year.

Now more than ever, enhanced cooperation is needed at all levels to support the fight against the challenges facing us on climate change, biodiversity loss and marine pollution. I am certain I can count on the continued support of the IMO family so that IMO can make a definitive contribution to addressing those challenges.

Distinguished delegates,

It is evident that you have many important issues before you this week, but I am confident that your able Vice-Chair, Mr. Harry Conway of Liberia, supported by the Secretariat, will steer the Committee's discussions towards a successful conclusion in the days ahead.

With that, I wish you a very successful meeting.

Thank you.