MEPC 77 – A Summary

The IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee met virtually and in person on 22-26 November 2021 for its 77th session (MEPC 77). At the recent COP261, the IMO was invited to accelerate its goals2 to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from shipping, to reach zero emissions by 2050.

The reduction of GHG emissions from shipping was central to the discussions at MEPC 77.A substantial amount of time was dedicated to the discussion of methods for reducing GHG emissions from smaller as well as large ships, of zero carbon technologies, the range of zero carbon bunker fuel options and future suppliers of these fuels, the establishment of an automated IMO Maritime Research Fund (IMRF) for R&D (developed by the ICS), intellectual property rights and benefit sharing mechanisms, etc.

Kiribati, Marshall Islands and Solomon Islands put forward a resolution for the IMO to commit to GHG emissions from shipping to reach zero by no later than 2050. The ICS put forward an alternative resolution for a target of net-zero emissions by 2050, seeing this target as a more plausible goal with current zero-carbon technologies and fuels in mind. There was a concern that agreeing the more ambitious goal of zero emissions by 2050 could in due course lead to the need to “ration the supply of maritime transport” or “undermine economic development”. 

In the event, neither of the above resolutions was adopted. Nevertheless, recognising the need to accelerate the reduction of GHG emissions from shipping, the IMO agreed to revise its GHG strategy and adopted revised guidelines to its short term and mid-to-long term GHG reduction measures, although without expressly committing to a zero or a net-zero target by 2050.

The Committee agreed to establish an ad-hoc Expert Workshop on Impact Assessments that will consider concrete proposals for improving the impact assessment procedure and provide recommendations as part of the lessons-learned exercise. The workshop is to be held from 8-9 March 2022 and the outcome from the workshop will be submitted to Intersessional Working Group  ISWG-GHG 11. A final draft revised strategy will then be presented at MEPC 80 (scheduled for Spring 2023) with a view to its adoption.

Below is a summary of other key points from MEPC 77:

1. Carbon Intensity Reduction3

  • A Correspondence Group on Carbon Intensity Reduction was established, to finalize and update guidelines relating in particular to (EEXI) and operational (CII and its rating) measures. 
  • The 2021 Guidance on treatment of innovative energy efficiency technologies for calculation and verification of the attained EEDI and EEXI was updated, particularly for wind assisted propulsion systems, to give a higher benefit in the EEDI/EEXI calculation for such systems.
  • The amendments to MARPOL Annex VI to incorporate these mandatory rules are expected to enter into force on 1 November 2022, with the requirements for EEXI and CII certification coming into effect from 1 January 2023. The goal set for these mandatory rules is a 40% reduction of carbon intensity by 2030. See here for additional details.

2. Black carbon in the Arctic

  • A resolution on voluntarily use of distillate or other cleaner alternative fuels or methods of propulsion safe for ships to reduce Black Carbon emissions when they operate in or near the Arctic, was adopted.
  • Member States were encouraged to commence addressing the threat to the Arctic from Black Carbon emissions, and to report on measures and best practices to reduce Black Carbon emissions from shipping.
  • The terms of reference for the PPR Sub-Committee's future work on reduction of the impact on the Arctic of Black Carbon emissions from international shipping were agreed.

3. Plastic litter from ships

  • The Strategy to address marine plastic litter from ships which sets out the ambitions to reduce marine plastic litter generated from, and retrieved by, fishing vessels, reduce shipping's contribution to marine plastic litter, and improve the effectiveness of port reception and facilities and treatment in reducing marine plastic litter, was adopted. This follows the adoption in 2018 of the IMO Action Plan to address marine litter. See here,  
  • The Strategy also aims to achieve further outcomes, including: enhanced public awareness, education and seafarer training; improved understanding of the contribution of ships to marine plastic litter; improved understanding of the regulatory framework associated with marine plastic litter from ships; strengthened international cooperation; and targeted technical cooperation and capacity-building.
  • In cooperation with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), IMO is also implementing the GloLitter Partnerships Project to help shipping and fisheries to move to a low plastic future.
  • A proposal to make the Garbage Record Book mandatory also for ships between 100 and 400 GT was considered and draft amendments to MARPOL are to be prepared. 

4. Exhaust gas cleaning systems (EGCS)

  • The 2021 Guidelines for EGCS were updated to the last version adopted in 2015. (See PPR7).
  • An MEPC circular with updated guidance on indication of ongoing compliance in the case of the failure of a single monitoring instrument, and recommended actions to take if the EGCS fails to meet the provisions of the EGCS Guidelines, were approved.
  • The scope of work for the PPR Sub-Committee relating to evaluation and harmonization of rules and guidance on EGCS discharge water into the aquatic environment, including the conditions and areas for discharge, was approved. The Sub-Committee will meet for its 9th session in April 2022.

5. Ballast water management (BWM) data from experience building phase

  • The proposal to extend the experience building phase (EBP) by two years was not considered. Data submitted from 15,000 ships will therefore now be analysed by the World Maritime University (WMU). The findings will be presented to MEPC 78 in June 2022, with a view to considering a package of amendments to the convention at MEPC 79 in December 2022. 
  • Work on guidance for ships that need to conduct BWM in ports with challenging water quality, with a view to finalization at MEPC 78, are to be progressed.
  • Unified interpretations clarifying the dates related to mandatory commissioning testing in accordance with MEPC.325(75) were approved. Commissioning testing should be conducted if the initial or additional survey is completed on or after 1 June 2022.

Conclusion

Following in the wake of COP26, expectations of MEPC 77 were high. The fact that MEPC 77 did not commit to either a zero or a net-zero target by 2050 was seen by many commentators as a “missed opportunity”. However, closing MEPC 77, IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim said: ‘Strengthening the ambition of the Initial IMO GHG Strategy during its revision will be crucial. Our collective actions must show our dedication to contribute towards the global issue, climate change.’

While MEPC 77 did not pick up the gauntlet thrown down at COP26, important measures and steps were agreed at the meeting, and there appears to be little doubt that the IMO’s membership acknowledges the need for shipping to play its full part in supporting the Paris Agreement’s target of net-zero emissions by 2050.

MEPC 78 has been tentatively scheduled to take place from 6 - 10 June 2022 and MEPC 79 from 12 -16 December 2022. The Club will continue to monitor developments on all the above issues and to keep Members updated.

Notes

1UK Club’s summary on the outcome of COP26 which took place in Glasgow on 31.10.21 – 12.11.21.
2The goals set under the 2018 Initial IMO GHG Strategy
3Please refer to A Roadmap for Ship Decarbonisation (ukpandi.com).

Jacqueline Tan

Legal Services Manager

Date17/12/2021