MEPC 79 - A Summary
THE IMO Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC) responsible for matters concerning the prevention and control of pollution from ships, held its 79th session (MEPC 79) in London from 12-16 December 2022. It was the first MEPC meeting in person since May 2019.
MEPC 79 followed hot on the heels of COP27 which ended on 20 November last month. Since COP26, there has been pressure on the IMO to align shipping's targets with the UN's goal of 100% decarbonisation by 2050. The IMO did not do so at MEPC 77, which followed COP26, although it did agree to revise its greenhouse gas (GHG) strategy, and it adopted revised guidelines to its short term and mid-to-long term GHG reduction measures. At MEPC 78, the IMO showed that it was working towards adopting a revised strategy by mid-2023 i.e., MEPC 80. With MEPC 80 only a couple of months away, many expected that MEPC 79 would seek to resolve outstanding issues and clear the way for the adoption of a much more ambitious revised GHG strategy at MEPC 80.
The IMO's strategy on GHG emissions aside, the other environmental regulatory items on MEPC 79's agenda included ballast water management (BWM), amendments to MARPOL Annexes I, II, IV, V and VI concerning regional reception facilities in Arctic waters, information to be included in the bunker delivery note, information to be submitted to the IMO Ship Fuel Oil Consumption Database, the creation of a Sulphur Oxide (SOx) Emission Control area (SECA) for the Mediterranean Sea and of a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA) in the North-Western Mediterranean Sea to protect cetaceans from the risk of ship collisions and ship-generated pollution and marine plastic litter.
Outcomes from MEPC 79
Revision of IMO's Initial Strategy for GHG reduction
- MEPC 79 received numerous submissions related to the revision of its Initial Strategy.
- Many additional levels of ambition were proposed, such as the establishing of green corridors and making deep cuts to black carbon in and near the Arctic.
- MEPC 79 also saw an increase in support for measures which combine economic (a GHG levy scheme) and technical (a well-to-wake GHG intensity fuel standard) elements.
- MEPC 79 reviewed the interim report of the Correspondence Group on Marine Fuel Life Cycle GHG Analysis and progress made on the development of emission factors for alternative marine fuels, for well to wake calculation of total GHG emissions during a fuel's life cycle from production to eventual use.
- MEPC 79 saw an interest in including on-board Carbon Capture Technology to reduce GHG emissions, with the captured CO2 handled and stored responsibly.
- The revision of the Initial Strategy will continue to be discussed in the Intersessional Working Group on GHG Reduction (ISWG-GHG 14 in March 2023), and a Revised Strategy is expected to be adopted at MEPC 80 (July 2023).
Marine pollution and energy efficiency
- MEPC 79 adopted amendments to MARPOL Annex VI, acknowledging the whole of the Mediterranean Sea as a designated SOx-ECA (SECA), alongside the Baltic Sea, the North Sea, North America (covering designated coastal areas off the United States and Canada) and the United States Caribbean Sea (around Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands). The amendments will enter into force on 1 May 2024 with the mandatory requirement to use fuel oil with a sulphur content of 0.10%, or an exhaust gas cleaning system (EGCS) in the Mediterranean Sea from 1 May 2025.
- MEPC adopted amendments to MARPOL Annexes I (oil), II (noxious liquid substances), IV (sewage), V (garbage) and VI (air pollution) to allow States with ports in the Arctic region to enter into regional arrangements as an acceptable way to satisfy MARPOL obligations to provide port reception facilities. Amendments to the 2012 Guidelines for the development of a regional reception facility plan were therefore also agreed. The amendments will enter into force on 1 May 2024.
- The MEPC adopted amendments to appendix V of MARPOL Annex VI to "Flashpoint of fuel oil (degrees), or a statement that the flashpoint has been measured at or above 70 degrees as mandatory information in the bunker delivery note (BDN). The amendments will enter into force on 1 May 2024.
- MEPC 79 adopted amendments in the revised Data Collection System to provide a more complete reporting of information to the IMO.
- MEPC 79 adopted Resolution MEPC.364(79) containing the 2022 Guidelines on the Method of Calculation of the Attained EEDI for new ships. The updated guidelines include introducing ethane into the list of fuels and a CO2 conversation factor for ethane.
- MEPC 79 revised an interpretation related to fuel oil blends containing biofuel to extend this interpretation to cover synthetic fuel. The bunker delivery note must indicate the identity and amount of synthetic fuel present in a delivered product.
- MEPC 79 received several submissions relating to Exhaust Gas Cleaning System (EGCS). Member States however remain divided on whether EGCS should be provided as its discharge water is deemed a source of pollution, or whether its continued use should be accepted. Proposals are to be forwarded to the PPR 11 sub-committee meeting (Spring 2024) for consideration.
Ballast Water Management (BWM)
- MEPC 79 considered proposals to revise the format of the Ballast Water Record Book (BWRB) with the introduction of code letters (A-H), similar to the system used in the oil record book. The aim is to improve the recording of issues around BWM systems. Adoption of the proposals was deferred to MEPC 80.
- MEPC 79 agreed the temporary storage of treated sewage and grey water in ballast tanks with guidance on procedures to be developed at MEPC 80 to ensure compliance with the BWM Convention, and in particular the D-2 standard, when the ballast tanks are returned to ballast water storage
- MEPC 79 considered proposals on how the BWM Convention can be applied to ships operating at ports with challenging water quality i.e. water not conducive to successful ballast water treatment. Ships are expected to return to D-2 compliance after experiencing challenging uptake water and a list of fundamental principles to consider when developing further guidance was established.
Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas (PSSA)
- MEPC 79 agreed in principle to designate a particular sensitive sea area in the North-Western Mediterranean Sea to protect cetaceans (whales, dolphins, porpoises) from the risk of ship collisions, ship-generated pollution and to increase awareness on a critically important area for the fin whale and the sperm whale. The proposed PSSA encompasses the whole Pelagos Sanctuary and the Spanish cetacean corridor, which are already designated as Special Protected Areas of Mediterranean Importance (SPAMIs) under the Barcelona Convention and the UN Mediterranean Action Plan dedicated to the conservation of cetaceans.
- MEPC 79 adopted amendments to MARPOL Annex V to make the Garbage Record Book mandatory also for ships between 100 and 400 gross tons. Smaller ships will now also be required to keep mandatory records of their garbage handling operations.
- Feedback received on the terms of reference for the comprehensive study on marine plastic litter from all ships initiated by the IMO concluded that a single study may not provide the required global assessment of inputs of plastic waste into the marine environment from ships. An invitation was issued for proposals to be put to MEPC 80 on how to progress the IMO Study on Marine Plastic Litter from Ships.
The IMO’s greenhouse gas (GHG) strategy is shaped with express reference to the Paris Agreement, the key element of which is to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions with a view to “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels”.
In pursuit of this goal, the IMO set out its ambitions in 2018 in its initial GHG strategy, targeting a 40% reduction in CO2 intensity by 2030, a 70% reduction by 2050, and a 50% reduction in all GHG by 2050, all with reference to 2008 levels.
Perhaps inevitably, given the breadth of views across the shipping sector, opinions differ regarding the targets set out under the IMO’s initial GHG strategy: on one side there are those who argue that the targets set out in the IMO’s initial GHG strategy are insufficient to achieve a pathway to the 1.5°C target, and who call for greater reductions; on the other side there are those who argue that the IMO’s existing targets are unrealistic, especially when consideration is given to real-world challenges such as the long life of ships and the risk of stranded assets, and the need for infrastructure and sufficient quantities of new fuels in addition to the technology on ships.
The need for urgent action is clear however and, as we reported in our summary on the outcome of COP27, shipping companies and other companies linked to the private sector are already committing to net zero emissions targets for 2050. There is therefore pressure on the IMO to set more ambitious targets, including from those who have already invested heavily in achieving net zero by 2050 and those who say that the current IMO targets fall well short of what will be required to achieve the vital 1.5°C target set out in the Paris Agreement.
There is therefore a great deal of expectation on MEPC 80, and we await the outcome of those meetings with interest.
Legal Services Manager
Sustainability Director and Head of Club Secretariat
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