MEPC 73: Summary of key outcomes

MEPC 73: Summary of key outcomes

The 73rd session of the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee has dealt with a huge amount of work this week. Below is a brief summary of points of particular relevance to IBIA’s members. We aim to report in more detail later, and at our Annual Convention in Copenhagen, 6-8 November, which will be the first opportunity for our industry come together in a wider forum to hear first-hand accounts from MEPC 73 and discuss the outcomes.

1 – Amendments to MARPOL Annex VI to prohibit not just the use, but also carriage of bunkers above 0.50% sulphur on ships (unless they have approved abatement technology onboard) were adopted and set to take effect from 1 March, 2020. See IBIA’s statement to MEPC 73 on this link.

2 – A much-anticipated proposal from a group of large flag states and shipping organisations, suggesting an “experience building phase” due to concerns about the safety of low-sulphur fuels, received significant support but most countries were opposed to it. Many had thought the proposal might lead to delayed implementation of the 2020 sulphur limit. It was agreed to invite further concrete proposals on how to enhance the implementation of regulation 18 of MARPOL Annex VI, in particular on fuel oil quality and reporting of non-availability of compliant fuel oils, to MEPC 74.

3 – Approved a draft MEPC circular on Guidance on best practice for fuel oil suppliers for assuring the quality of fuel oil delivered to ships. The final version made a few small changes to the draft submitted in MEPC 74/5/4, which in turn proposed amendments to the draft guidance on best practice for fuel oil suppliers provided by IBIA to MEPC 72. The co-sponsors; representing both the shipping industry and the fuel oil supply industry, cooperated on a number of primarily editorial improvements in a bid to produce guidance that is acceptable to all parties and aligned with other IMO guidance.

4 – Work on developing Guidance on Best practice for Member States/coastal States to assure the quality of fuel oil delivered to ships will go back to a correspondence group as it was deemed premature to complete the draft at this session. The aim is to submit a draft for finalisation and approval at MEPC 74.

5 – Approved the draft MEPC circular on Guidance on the development of a ship implementation plan (SIP) for the consistent implementation of the 0.50% sulphur limit under MARPOL Annex VI.

The SIP, which is not mandatory, can be filled in by ship owners/operators to help them plan and demonstrate the steps taken by ships to prepare for compliance with the 0.50% sulphur limit on 1 January 2020.

In addition to the SIP itself, there is an appendix addressing the impact on machinery systems, containing advice on how to prepare for use of distillates, fuel oil blends, or both, as the compliance option for the 0.50% sulphur limit. A proposal to MEPC 73 co-sponsored by India, IBIA and IPTA to enhance this appendix was supported.A second appendix to the SIP relates to tank cleaning, is based on a document submitted by IBIA to the ISWG describing options available for cleaning fuel oil tanks and systems.

6 – Discussions about measures to reduce risks of use and carriage of heavy fuel oil as fuel by ships in Arctic waters centred on developing appropriate methodology to conduct an impact assessment on Arctic communities and economies of a proposed ban on HFO. Discussion at MEPC 73 suggested that not just appropriate methodology, but also results of impact assessments already undertaken, canbe submitted to PPR 6 for consideration. If the benefit of a ban on HFO is seen as outweighing the potential negative impact on Arctic communities it will result in proposal for a ban. That will require a definition of HFO to be developed.

7- Approved a programme of follow-up actions of the Initial IMO Strategy on reduction of GHG emissions from ships up to 2023. This is chiefly a planning tool for how to bring the work forward. A GHG working group discussed the draft terms of reference for the Fourth IMO GHG Study with a view to approval at MEPC 74. MEPC 73 approved the draft terms of reference for the fifth meeting of the Intersessional Working Group on Reduction of GHG emissions from ships (ISWG-GHG 5), recommended to take place just prior to MEPC 74.

Report by Unni Einemo:

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