The IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee held its 73rd   Session (MEPC 73) from Monday 22 through Friday 26 October 2018 under the Chairmanship of Mr Hideako Saito (JAPAN) and his Vice-Chair, Mr H Conway (LIBERIA), both of whom were re-elected for 2019.


Three 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)

WG3    Marine Plastic Litter, Ms A Sly (AUSTRALIA)

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

RG1    Ballast water management, Ms L Page (UK)


The meeting was attended by representatives from 95 Member States, plus 2 Associates, 4 UN and Special Agencies, 7 Inter-Governmental and 51 Non-Governmental organisations.  The InterManager Delegation was assisted by Associate Member SGS, four in number who assisted in covering Plenary and importantly, 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 to the seventy-third session of MEPC reminding all that this year, IMO is celebrating two significant milestones – 70 years since its formation and 60 years in operation.  He then alluded to global discussions identifying and supporting development of the blue economy concept, MEPC decisions for which will influence development of national maritime transport policies. In this context, he screened a new short video explaining the essential ingredients and illustrating how it can give a country the tools it needs.


Referring to the adoption earlier in the year of the ’Initial IMO Strategy on reduction of GHG emissions from ships’ which the UN Secretary-General subsequently welcomed as a major step forward in global action to combat climate change, Mr Lim revealed that the intersessional working group had made significant progress in developing a draft programme of follow-up actions in respect of the Initial Strategy and encouraged the meeting to further develop a clear plan to make it alive.


Mentioning briefly the successful outcomes of two global projects related to technical cooperation and capacity building needs (GMN and GloMEEP), he was also encouraged to note several submissions highlighting the important role of ports vis a vis the Initial Strategy.  In regards to the mandatory efficiency requirements for international shipping, he welcomed the interim report of the correspondence group on EEDI review beyond phase 2 and its recommendations for phase 3 together with anticipation of the Fourth IMO GHG Study to be initiated at MEPC 74.


Referring to the content of global sulphur in fuel, he reminded delegates of the planned significant reduction to a limit of 0.50 per cent on1 January 2020 which brings with it a challenge to ensure consistent implementation.  In addition to such a challenge, he referred to the importance of the Committee starting work on an action plan to address marine plastic litter from ships such that follow-on work could swiftly begin.


Rounding off his welcoming speech, the S- G referred to the Ballast Water Management Convention which has now been in force for just over a year, the focus of which is now on effective and uniform implementation.  A key topic in this is the experience-building phase (EBP) and the data gathering and analysis plan approved at the last session giving rise to the need for consideration on how best to provide the necessary support for the EBP to be administered and executed.


AMENDMENTS TO MANDATORY INSTRUMENTS.  Following a short debate in Plenary, DG1 was convened and instructed to prepare the final text of the draft amendments to MARPOL Annex VI, together with the associated MEPC resolution.  This was duly done, and approved by the Committee, in respect of the prohibition on the carriage of non-compliant fuel oil for combustion purposes for propulsion or operation on board a ship.  Also, note was taken on the Group’s discussion on possible future refinements to regulations 14.2, 14.5 and 14.6 as well as to regulations 13.6.3 and 13.6.4 of MARPOL Annex VI.


HARMFUL AQUATIC ORGANISMS IN BALLAST WATER.  As recommended by the GESAMP-BWWG regarding BWMS that make use of Active Substances, the Committee granted Basic Approval to the BIOBALLAST 1000 BWM System and gave Final Approval to the Envirocleanse in Tanktm BWTS (Electrochlorination Variation).  Recalling that MEPC 71 had adopted resolution MEPC.290(71) on ‘The experience-building phase (EBP) associated with the BWM Convention’ and MEPC 72 had approved the ‘Data gathering and analysis plan for the EBP’, the Committee noted that the Secretariat has initiated preparations for a module in the Global Integrated Shipping Information System (GISIS) to accommodate the EBP and encouraged Member States to use it. Further inconclusive discussion in Plenary included : Validation of compliance of individual BWMS with regulation D-2 in conjunction with their commissioning; Recording of the operation of ballast water pumps; and, Proposed amendments to the form of the International BWM Certificate.

The Ballast Water Review Group (RG1) was subsequently established and following several days deliberations, forwarded its report to the Committee which approved it in general, and in particular:

  1. Approved a draft BWM.2 circular on ‘Guidance on System Design Limitations of BWM systems and their monitoring;
  2. Instructed the CG on Updated Survey Guidelines under the Harmonised System of Survey and Certification (HSSC), established by III 5, to ensure that the validation of BWMS at their commissioning be incorporated in the 2019 HSSC Guidelines for all ships, including new BWM system installations on existing ships;
  3. Approved a draft BWM circular on ‘Guidance for the commissioning testing of BWM systems’;
  4. Concurred with the view that each Member State may determine the timing for the incorporation of information on contingency measures in the BWM plans of ships flying its flag;
  5. Approved three new outputs relating to training provisions for seafarers apropos the BWM Convention, review of the Convention based on data gathered in the EBP and urgent measures emanating from issues identified during the EBP of the Convention; and,
  6. Re-established the RG at MEPC 74.


AIR POLLUTION.  With regard to the outcome of Sub-Committee PPR 5, it was noted that a Reporting protocol for voluntary measurement studies to collect Black Carbon data in respect of its impact on the Arctic had been agreed.  The Committee also adopted resolution MEPC.307(73) on the 2018 Guidelines for the discharge of exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) bleed-off water as recommended by PPR 5 and also the  revised certification requirements for selective catalytic reduction (SCR) systems under the NOx Technical Code 2008, with a view to adoption at MEPC 74.

Following discussion of the Intersessional Meeting on Consistent Implementation of regulation 14.1.3 of MARPOL Annex VI, the Committee approved a draft MEPC circular on Guidance on the development of a ship implementation plan for the consistent implementation of the 0.50%sulphur limit (MEPC.1/Circ.878).  In addition, having noted the safety implications associated with the use of low-sulphur fuel oil, a proposal to establish an EBP (as for the BWM Convention) associated with worldwide availability of safe compliant fuel oil was not agreed despite discussion at great length.  Instead, the Committee invited further concrete proposals on how to enhance the implementation of regulation 18 of MARPOL Annex VI, in particular of fuel oil quality and reporting of non-availability of compliant fuel oils, including the enhancement of the GISIS module for data collection and analysis.

In consideration of the Air Pollution aspects of WG1’s remit, the Committee :

  1. Concurred with the proposed revised text of paragraph 2.2 of the draft 2018 Guidelines for the discharge of EGR bleed-off water;
  2. Noted the comments made and views expressed on the draft best practice for Member States/coastal States at this session but that is premature to finalise;
  3. Re-established the CG on Fuel oil quality; and,
  4. Approved a draft MEPC circular on ‘Guidance on best practice for fuel oil suppliers for assuring the quality of fuel oil delivered to ships’.


ENERGY EFFICIENCY.  A number of delegations expressed disappointment with the interim report of the CG on the EEDI review beyond phase 2 in that it lacked ambition and did not reflect a strengthening of the EEDI requirements for all ship types, including bringing forward phase 3 and increasing reduction rates to 40% for phase 3 plus identifying a phase 4 with reduction rates and timelines.  Following a discussion on minimum propulsion power to maintain the manoeuvrability of ships in adverse conditions, the Committee agreed to consider EEDI phase 3 requirements on the basis of applying the 2013 guidelines, noted some merit in the proposal for “shaft power limitation” and agreed that the minimum power requirements set out in regulation 21.5 of MARPOL should be retained.

EEDI phase 3 requirements were next discussed by type, viz:

Bulk Carriers and Tankers, where the Committee agreed  that the starting year of 2025 should be retained as also would be the required reduction rate of 30%;

Containerships.  The Committee agreed a starting year of 2022, a reduction rate of 40% and retention of the current parameters for determination of reference values;

Other ship types.  As there is very limited data for ro-ro cargo (vehicle carrier) ship type, a 2025 start date and 30% reduction should be retained.  Since the reference lines for ro-ro cargo ships and ro-ro passenger ships were amended, the start date should be advanced to 2022 and the start date should be advanced for all other ship types apart from ro-ro cargo ships and ro-ro passenger ships.  Following consideration, the Committee instructed the WG to consider whether there is sufficient data for the start of phase 3 for other ship types, excluding ro-ro cargo ships and ro-ro passenger ships, to be advanced to 2022.


Following WG1s deliberations on Energy Efficiency matters, the Committee approved its report in general and in particular :

  1. Noted the Group’s consideration of the proposed shaft power limitation;
  2. Encouraged Member States to submit EEDI data, in particular for ship types and sizes for which there is a lack of data;
  3. Noted the Group’s discussions on amending the reduction rate to 40% in phase 3 for gas carriers and LNG carriers;
  4. Noted the discussion on timing and approval of draft amendments to MARPOL Annex VI for the EEDI phase 3 requirements;
  5. Adopted the draft 2018 Guidelines on the method of calculation of the attained Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) for new ships;
  6. Approved draft amendments to regulations 2.42 and 19.3 of MARPOL Annex VI concerning EEDI Regulations for ice-strengthened ships;
  7. Adopted draft amendments to the 2014 Guidelines on survey and certification of the EEDI;
  8. Urged stakeholders concerned to submit SEEMP part II to the Administration or its recognised organisation as soon as possible; and
  9. Approve draft unified interpretations to MARPOL Annex VI, for dissemination as MEPC.1/Circ.795/Rev.3.


REDUCTION OF GHG EMISSIONS FROM SHIPS.  The Committee noted that the fourth meeting of the Intersessional Working Group on reduction of GHG emissions from ships (ISWG-GHG 4) had been held at IMO HQ in the week preceding MEPC 73 and that the forty-eigth session of the UNFCCC Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA 48), retained as a body under the 2015 Paris Agreement, had on its agenda an item on “Emissions from fuel used for international aviation and maritime transport”.  Information on the ongoing work of IMO will be provided to SBSTA 49 scheduled for 2 to 14 December 2018 in Katowice, Poland.

In considering the report of meeting ISWG-GHG 4, the Committee approved it in general and in particular :

  1. Approved the Programme of follow-up actions of the initial IMO Strategy on reduction of GHG emissions from ships up to 2023;
  2. Invited concrete proposals on candidate short-term measures to MEPC 74;
  3. As for 2. above, candidate mid-/long-term measures to MEPC 74 and 75, also action to address the identified barriers;
  4. Invited concrete proposals to MEPC 74 for finalisation of the procedure for assessing the impacts on States;
  5. Noted the Group’s view that there is a potential for early action especially focussing on existing instruments EEDI AND SEEMP;
  6. Noted the proposal by Canada and IAPH to submit a draft resolution to MEPC 74 on encouragement of port developments and activities to facilitate the reduction of GHG emissions from ships;
  7. Noted discussion on criteria to evaluate the viability of a measure; and,
  8. Approved the holding of an Intersessional meeting before MEPC 74.


Six papers were submitted to the Committee in preparation for the Fourth IMO GHG Study and following discussion, the indicative outline and timeline were approved in principle and referred to the WG which was instructed to initiate the development of the Study’s terms of reference.  In regards to the matter of port developments and activities facilitating the reduction of GHG emissions from ships, the Committee welcomed the work undertaken by the GloMEEP project and by IAPH, encouraging ports to develop their air pollutant and/or GHG assessments and emissions reduction strategy, and invited Member Governments and international organisations to work with Canada and IAPH on their proposed resolution to MEPC 74.


The Committee next established WG2 on Reduction of GHG emissions from ships and on completion of the WG’s deliberations, consideration was given to the report of the Group by the Committee which approved it in general and in particular ;

  1. Agreed to the holding of an Expert Workshop in preparation for the Fourth IMO GHG Study;
  2. Concurred with the view that the terms of reference of the Steering Committee and call for nominations should in line with the practice followed for the Third Study;
  3. Noted the Group’s support for the integration of a feedback mechanism in the process for the Fourth Study;
  4. Noted the progress in developing TOR’s for the Fourth Study;
  5. Noted the preferred date of 7 to 10 May 2019 for the fifth meeting of ISWG-GHG;
  6. Approved draft TOR’s for ISWG-GHG 5;
  7. Noted views on appropriate future working arrangements;
  8. Noted the Group’s discussion on initiation of the development of an impact assessment procedure; and,
  9. Requested the secretariat to submit an information document to MEPC 74 outlining existing IMO procedures relevant to impact assessments.


DEVELOPMENT OF AN ACTION PLAN TO ADDRESS MARINE PLASTIC LITTER FROM SHIPS.  There were 13 submissions and 1 Information paper submitted on this item, such was the amount of interest.  The Committee recalled that Assembly 30 had recognised the ongoing problem of marine plastic pollution within the framework of ocean governance, in pursuance of the target of Sustainable Development Goal 14 (UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development) to prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds by 2025.  MEPC 72 agreed to include a new output for this item in its 2018-2019 biennial agenda (assigning the PPR Sub-Committee as the associated organ) for consideration at MEPC 73 and document MEPC 73/8/5 submitted by India was included also as it provided an Annex summarising  reports on alleged inadequacy of port reception facilities during 2017.


Following an extensive debate in Plenary, the Committee established WG3, instructing it to prepare a draft action plan to address marine plastic litter from ships, develop a draft scope of work for the PPR Sub-Committee and consider whether it would be necessary to establish a correspondence group.  The WG duly deliberated and in considering its report, the Committee gave its approval in general, and in particular ;


  1. Noted the progress made in developing the draft Action Plan and in particular, that a section on review and evaluation had been included;
  2. Adopted a draft MEPC resolution on the Action Plan to address marine plastic litter from ships;
  3. Noted that due to time constraints, priority measures within the Action Plan had been identified for the PPR Sub-Committee instead of the requested scope of work;
  4. Concurred with the recommendation to change the title of output 4.3 to “Follow-up work emanating from the Action Plan to address marine plastic litter from ships”;
  5. Invited proposals on the measures contained within the Action Plan to the Committee’s next meeting, MEPC 74;
  6. Agreed establishment of a correspondence group to continue work intersessionally in accordance with the terms of reference recommended by WG3;
  7. Instructed the Secretariat to, in cooperation with FAO, request GESAMP to also include shipping-related sources in the scope of work for the GESAMP Working Group on Sea-based sources of Marine Litter, as a starting point to inform the study on marine plastic litter from ships;
  8. Invited MSC to consider the establishment of a mandatory system for reporting the loss of containers at sea;
  9. Continued to encourage Parties to MARPOL Annex V to implement their obligation to provide adequate facilities at ports and terminals for the reception of garbage;
  10. Encouraged Member States to submit to MEPC 74 information on relevant studies and work undertaken to address marine plastic litter from ships for the purpose of information sharing and informing future work on this issue;
  11. Invited Member States and international organisations to undertake studies to better understand microplastics from ships and submit them to the Committee for information; and,
  12. Requested the Secretariat to continue to work with other United Nations bodies and agencies, as well as with international fora, which are active in the matter of Marine plastic litter from shipping.


CARRIAGE OF HEAVY FUEL OIL USED AS FUEL BY SHIPS IN THE ARCTIC.  Following discussion of five submissions on this issue, the Committee agreed to forward all five to the PPR Sub-Committee to assist in finalising an impact assessment methodology.  Noting that there are a number of studies currently being conducted to better understand the environmental impacts on Arctic communities and local economies, and in order to expedite the work, the Committee invited Member Governments and international organisations to submit any further proposals on an appropriate impact assessment methodology process, also, the results of any impact assessments undertaken.   In doing so, the decision by the Committee in respect of a proposed ban on HFO to PPR 6 for consideration and advice to the Committee should also be borne in mind.


POLLUTION PREVENTION AND RESPONSE.  The Committee had for its consideration, the draft MEPC resolution on ‘Guidelines for the use of electronic record books [ERB] under MARPOL’  (PPR 5/24, annex 13) and the draft amendments to MARPOL Annexes I, II, V and VI, and the NOx Technical Code concerning ERBs that had been finalised at PPR 5.  The USA expressed its strong opposition to the approval in principle of the draft Guidelines and the associated draft amendments to MARPOL and the NOx Technical Code, as in their view the use of ERBs that had been approved taking into account non-mandatory guidelines, would not provide the same degree of accessibility, consistency, clarity, reliability, integrity and accountability as hard copy records presently required by MARPOL.  These views were shared by the UK and Mexico although the great majority of delegations that spoke, were in favour of the draft.  In discussion, it was pointed out that there are a number of ships already using ERBs for the purposes of MARPOL recording thus enhancements to the guidelines will be possible given experience gained and they are easier to amend than mandatory codes.  For these reasons and many others, the Committee approved, in principle, the draft MEPC resolution on Guidelines for the use of electronic record books under MARPOL and the draft amendments to same, whilst acknowledging the USAs reservation in its position.


DATE OF NEXT MEETING.  The next meeting, MEPC 74, has been tentatively scheduled to take place from 13 to 17 May, 2019 whilst that for MEPC 75 will be held in Spring 2020.


Captain Paddy McKnight                                                                                                   End




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