The IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee held its 72nd  Session (MEPC 72) from Monday 9 through Friday 13 April 2018 under the Chairmanship of Mr Hideako Saito (JAPAN) and his Vice-Chair, Mr H Conway (LIBERIA).


Two Working Groups (WG), one Drafting Group (DG), and one Review Group (RG) were formed and chaired as follows:


WG1    Air pollution and energy efficiency, Mr K Yoshida (JAPAN)

WG2    Reduction of GHG emissions from ships, Mr S Oftedal (NORWAY)

DG1    Amendments to mandatory instruments, Mr H Steinbock (GERMANY)

RG1    Ballast water management, Mr C Wiley (CANADA)


The meeting was attended by representatives from 105 Member States, plus 3 Associates, 3 UN and Special Agencies, 9 Inter-Governmental and 51 Non-Governmental organisations.  The InterManager Accredited Representative was assisted by some of our Associate Members, Seagull UK and Videotel, also SGS, three in number who helped us to cover proceedings in both Plenary and the Ballast Water Review Group.

Matters of most interest to InterManager members are as follows:

IMO SECRETARY GENERAL’S ADDRESS.   The Secretary-General, Mr Ki Tack Lim, welcomed delegates by first reminding all that the theme for this year’s World Maritime Day, which is to be held at IMO on 27 September, is “IMO 70:  our heritage – better shipping for a better future”.  He next spoke of the visit by HM Queen Elizabeth II to IMO Headquarters on 6 March to celebrate the 70 years’ anniversary since the Convention establishing IMO was adopted, unveiling a commemorative plaque to mark the occasion.

Mr Lim said that he was in no doubt that one of the items dominating discussions this week would be the prevention of atmospheric pollution from ships including the reduction of GHG emissions, pursuant on the 0.50% limit for the sulphur content of ships’ fuel oil which comes into effect from 1 January 2020.  He reminded delegates that regulation 22A of MARPOL Annex VI entered into force on 1 March introducing provisions for a mandatory data collection system for fuel consumption of ships.  The report from ships to their flag Administration will be forwarded to IMO via the Ship Fuel Oil Consumption Database which has now been launched as a new module within the GISIS platform.  Welcoming the good progress made in the week preceding MEPC 72  by the intersessional working group on reduction of GHG emissions from ships (ISWG-GHG3), he stressed the need for the Strategic direction adopted at this meeting to be seen by the outside world as matching the new Strategic Plan adopted by Assembly last year (Strategic Direction 3, ‘Respond to Climate Change’).


Mr Lim next reminded delegates that this is the first session since the entry into force of the BWM Convention, and that the focus must now shift to effective implementation, guided by the experience-building phase, which was approved at MEPC 71.  This will undoubtedly be a learning period for both shipowners and Administrations in which the specific arrangements formulated this week will be critical in allowing the phase to commence in order to start generating the information and insight crucial to success.


As a specialised agency of the United Nations, IMO has an important role to play in helping to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goal 14, thus at this session, the Committee will be considering the issue of marine plastic litter from shipping, as directed by the 30th session of the IMO Assembly.


An important IMO Convention of concern is that of the Hong Kong Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships of which to date, only 6 States have ratified or acceded to it, constituting 21.12% of the world’s shipping fleet, of 107,478 gross tons, insufficient for the Convention to enter into force.  Whilst finding it encouraging that leading international associations of shipowners have agreed to support voluntary adherence to the requirements of the Convention prior to its entry into force, he implored recycling and flag States to make every effort to bring the Convention into force as soon as possible.

Acknowledging that there are a great many significant items on the MEPC’s extensive agenda, Mr Lim went on to single out the importance of amendments to MARPOL Annex VI concerning ECAs and the required EEDI for ro-ro passenger ships, also, information on technical cooperation activities relating to the protection of the marine environment.

The Secretary General concluded his welcoming address by wishing the Committee good luck and every success in their deliberations.


AMENDMENTS TO MANDATORY INSTRUMENTS.  Following preliminary discussions in Plenary, a drafting group (DG) was established to finalise the text of draft amendments for adoption at this session.  In its report, the DG invited the Committee to consider and adopt proposed amendments to the BWM Convention concerning the implementation schedule of ballast water management (BWM) for ships, the Code for the approval of BWM systems and endorsement of additional surveys on the International BWM Certificate;  amendments to MARPOL Annex VI concerning ECAs and the required EEDI for ro-ro cargo and ro-ro passenger ships;  also, amendments to the IBC and BCH Codes concerning the Model form of the Certificate of Fitness for the Carriage of Dangerous Chemicals in Bulk.  These recommendations were duly endorsed by the Committee.


HARMFUL AQUATIC ORGANISMS IN BALLAST WATER.  The BWM Convention entered into force on 8 September 2017 and the number of Contracting Governments is now 69, representing 75.11% of the world’s merchant fleet tonnage.  It will be recalled that MEPC 71 was momentous in achieving significant outcomes including, inter alia, the approval of amendments to the Convention and of the Code for ‘approval of ballast water management systems’ (BWMS Code) (both of which have now been adopted by MEPC 72 under the preceding agenda item); the establishment of an experience-building phase (EBP) and the approval of numerous new or revised guidelines and guidance documents addressing various topics related to the implementation and enforcement of the Convention.  In addition, III 4 finalised the inclusion of Survey Guidelines under the BWM Convention in the HSSC, subsequently adopted at Assembly 30.  Fifteen documents were submitted on this item, as well as those emanating from IIII 4 and following discussion in Plenary, terms of reference were formulated for a Ballast Water Review Group.  The Group convened for several days and submitted a report which the Committee approved in general, and in particular:


  1. Agreed that Procedure G9 should be revised as a consequence of the revision of Guidelines G8, and that Procedure G9 need not be made into a code under the Convention;
  2. Approved a draft BWM.2 circular on the data gathering and analysis plan for the experience-building phase;
  3. Concurred that further consideration of document PPR 5/5/2 at PPR 6 is necessary, with a view to adding to the data gathering and analysis plan for the experience-building phase of an Annex on analytical procedures for sampling and analysis;
  4. Approved BWM.2/Circ.33/Rev.1 on revised ‘Guidance on scaling of BWM systems’;
  5. Approved BWM.2/Circ.43/Rev.1 on revised ‘Guidance for Administrations on the type approval process for BWM systems’;
  6. Invited proposals for developing guidance on validating compliance of individual BWMS with regulation D-2 of the BWM Convention in conjunction with their commissioning;
  7. Invited proposals to clarify when elements introduced by the Guidance on contingency measures under the BWM Convention should be included into BWM plans; and
  8. Re-established the review group for MEPC 73, in accordance with the provisions of regulation D-5 of the BWM Convention, subject to approval by the Council.


AIR POLLUTION AND ENERGY EFFICIENCY.   Following MEPC 71, ICELAND deposited its instrument of accession to MARPOL Annex VI, bringing the total number of Contracting States to the Annex to 89, constituting 96.18% of world tonnage.  Eleven documents were submitted together with six information papers plus urgent matters emanating from PPR 5.  The main issues considered under this item were draft amendments to MARPOL Annex VI for a prohibition of carriage of non-compliant fuel oil (consistent implementation of 0.50% sulphur fuel oil) and drafting guidance on best practice for fuel oil purchasers/users and for fuel oil providers.  Additionally, in considering energy efficiency of ships, draft amendments to MARPOL Annex VI for the EEDI requirements of ice class ships and the EEDI reference line parameters for bulk carriers and tankers were also subjects for deliberation.  Of greatest importance was the decision by the Committee to prohibit not just the use, but also the carriage of bunkers above 0.50% sulphur.  Thus the way is now clear for formal adoption of this amendment to MARPOL Annex VI Regulation 14 at MEPC 73 in October this year, meaning that a carriage ban can take effect as early as 1 March 2020, enabling a more effective enforcement of the 2020 sulphur limit.  A number of other matters debated by the dedicated WG were subjects within their report which was approved by the Committee in general, and in particular, also:


  1. Approved a draft MEPC circular on Guidance of best practice for fuel oil purchasers/users for assuring the quality of fuel oil used on board ships;
  2. Concurred with the WG’s view that the draft best practice Guidance for fuel oil suppliers in document MEPC 72 (INF.13(IBIA)) should form the basis for developing IMO guidance at MEPC 73;
  3. Issued instructions to the Correspondence Group on EEDI review beyond phase 2 regarding definition and exclusion of ice-strengthened ships higher than IA Super from the EEDI regulations;
  4. Noted the Group’s agreement to incorporate the issue of early submission of the SEEMP part II and its timely verification in the draft MEPC circular on the Sample format for the Confirmation of compliance pursuant to regulation 5.4.5 of MARPOL Annex VI; and
  5. Approved the draft MEPC circular referred to in 4 above, for early submission of the SEEMP part II on the ship fuel consumption data collection plan.


REDUCTION OF GHG EMISSIONS FROM SHIPS.  MEPC 70 approved the Roadmap for developing a comprehensive IMO Strategy on reduction of GHG emissions from ships which predicated the adoption of an initial Strategy at MEPC 72 and adoption of a revised Strategy in Spring 2023.  In the interim, ISWG-GHG 3 held its third intersessional meeting during the week preceding MEPC 72 where it set out to finalise the draft IMO GHG Strategy.  This included the definition of a vision expressing IMO’s commitment to further reduce or limit GHG emissions from ships;  identification of levels of ambition for this initial Strategy;  agreement of guiding principles, including the question of differentiation;  and, agreement on timelines, especially on the issue of early action.


Eleven documents and two information documents were submitted to MEPC 72 in addition to several recommended by ISWG-GHG3, all of which were introduced for discussion prior to establishing  the Working Group.  In considering the WG’s subsequent report, the Committee approved it in general, and in particular:


  1. Adopted the IMO Strategy on GHG emissions from ships, together with an associated MEPC resolution;
  2. Noted that, due to time constraints, consideration of a number of documents would have to be referred to GHG 4;
  3. Agreed to hold a fourth meeting of ISWG-GHG4; subject to Council endorsement;
  4. Considered the Group’s discussion on the timing of GHG 4; and
  5. Approved draft terms of reference for GHG 4.


The achievement by Member States in agreeing to adopt an IMO Strategy of GHG emissions from ships, should not be under-estimated.  It took two weeks of tough negotiations during which a great many countries set out incompatible, even opposing, positions making the chances of signing up to a compromise text slimmer by the minute.  However, during Plenary discussion of the proposed Strategy, over 70 Member States supported the draft text and of those, only 2 Member States opposed.  Although consistent with the Paris Agreement temperature goals, the initially agreed ‘level of ambition’ to reduce the sector’s total GHG emissions to at least 50% by 2050 (compared to 2008 levels) was the most hotly contested point.  It was viewed as far too weak by many, whilst others objected to defining a reduction figure at such a premature stage, particularly as it is not based on evidence.  Meanwhile, IMO agreed to present a revised GHG Strategy in 2023, when it will have received and analysed data from its mandatory fuel consumption data collection and a new IMO GHG Study to better define shipping’s actual contribution to global GHG emissions.


MEASURES TO REDUCE RISKS OF USE AND CARRIAGE OF HEAVY FUEL OIL AS FUEL BY SHIPS IN ARCTIC WATERS.   Heavy fuel oil (HFO) is toxic and extremely viscous, breaking down more slowly in the marine environment than other fuels, particularly in colder regions like the Arctic.  The anticipated increase in Arctic ship traffic due to reduced sea ice will increase the risk of incidents associated with use and carriage of HFO as fuel by these ships.  FINLAND, supported by a number of other Arctic Council Member States, therefore proposed a mandatory HFO ban for such ships.  However, the RUSSIAN FEDERATION suggested a number of risk reduction factors rather than an outright ban including navigational and operational measures, also emergency preparedness, believing that these should be explored before any mandatory ban is established.  Given the range of divergent views on this proposal by FINLAND et al in the Plenary discussion that followed, the Committee decided to delegate resolution of the problem to the PPR Sub-Committee and issued a scope of work as follows:


  1. Develop a definition of HFO taking into account regulation 43 of MARPOL, Annex I;
  2. Prepare a set of Guidelines on mitigation measures to reduce risks of use and carriage of HFO by ships in Arctic waters, taking into account document MEPC 72/11 (RUSSIAN FEDERATION); and
  3. On the basis of an assessment of the impact, develop a ban on HFO for use and carriage of fuel by ships in Arctic waters in an appropriate timescale.


Following on from this, Member Governments and international organisations were invited to submit concrete proposals to MEPC 73 on an appropriate impact assessment methodology process.


MARINE PLASTIC LITTER.  Marine litter presents a huge problem in our oceans, with some scientists warning that, by 2050, the quantity of plastics in the oceans will outweigh those of fish.  Plastics break down extremely slowly in the marine environment, taking in excess of 400 years to do so.  It has been estimated that around 80% of marine litter is from land-based sources and 20% from sea based sources, such as ships, offshore platforms and fishing vessels.


The Chairman recalled that Assembly 30 recognised the ongoing problem of marine plastic pollution, as addressed in MARPOL Annex V, which requires further consideration as part of a global solution within the framework of ocean governance, in pursuance of SDG 14’s target to prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds by 2025.  Following extensive discussion, the Committee expressed overwhelming support for the IMO to enhance its work in addressing maritime plastic litter.  This includes strengthening the implementation on enforcement of existing mandatory requirements, in particular, the relevant regulations in MARPOL Annex V.  In addition, further improvements to interagency cooperation, collection and assessment of relevant data and, promoting best practice, should also be pursued.  The Committee then agreed to:


  1. Include a new output ‘Development of an action plan to address marine plastic from ships’ in the 2018-2019 biennial agenda of the MPEC, assigning the PPR Sub-committee as the associated organ, with a target completion year of 2020;
  2. Include the new output on the agenda of MEPC 73;
  3. Invite proposals to MEPC 73 on the development of an action plan;
  4. Request the Secretariat to submit a summary of the Organisation’s work on addressing marine plastic litter, including an update on the status of interagency cooperation, to MEPC 73;
  5. Invite the governing bodies of the London Convention/Protocol to submit their input on the proposed action plan to future sessions of the Committee; and
  6. Invite the FAO and other international organisations to keep the Committee updated on its work related to addressing marine plastic litter.


DATE OF NEXT MEETING.  The next meeting, MEPC 73, is scheduled to take place from 22 through 26 October 2018 whilst provisional dates for MEPC 74 are 13 through 17 May 2019.


Captain Paddy McKnight                                                                                            End





Leave a reply

©2021 InterManager - Promoting Excellence In Ship Management

Log in with your credentials

Forgot your details?