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Saturday, January 20, 2018


The IMO’s Marine and Environment Protection Committee met for their 44th meeting this week. Although the meeting will not conclude until the 13 March, a number of note-worthy developments have taken place in the first few days of the meeting.


The MEPC Chairman gave the working group a set of concepts based on the larger issues that it should work and decide upon before it continues work on the legislation text. One in particular was the question of regional or international coverage of the regulations. Essentially this is reverting back to the questions of opt in (member states to decide whether to establish the legislation in its waters) or opt out (a blanket set of regulations is established and the member states chose to enforce them or not). This has been a sticking point at previous MEPC meetings but the issue was resolved within the first morning. The regional or opt in approach has been agreed on in principle. What is now under discussion is the designation of these areas and whether this should go through IMO, i.e. should states gain permission from the IMO or should the IMO just act as a communication forum. It appears that a set of criteria will be established which individual states will use when designating an area in which ballast water should not be discharged. In addition a decision has been made to establish another set of minimum criteria to apply to all ships. At present this includes the presence of a Ballast Water Management Plan on all ships so that if the vessel has to carry out some form of ballast management then it can do so under the said terms in this document.


This issue has now been adopted and Terms of Reference are being drawn up by the Secretariat which will be discussed on Monday 13 March. The Terms of Reference will allow the IMO to decide how to proceed with the issue and what aspects to address within this and the other Committees. One aspect in particular is the development of a correspondence group to work on the issue before the next MEPC.


Due to the large amount of work to be done on this convention, the working group has started editing the current draft text. At present the discussion seems to be focusing on the issue of certification of the application of a non-tin based paint for vessels. The group will be working through the weekend to produce a draft text for plenary on Wednesday 15 March.


Friends of the Earth International has submitted a paper addressing the difficulties related to deal with spills of heavy fuels and emulsified oils. Their suggestions was for:

1/ measures to improve knowledge and training for clean up response to such spills

2/ that these kind of cargoes are carried in "double hull special designed" tankers.

MEPC has discussed so far only the first proposal and some measures for developing technology to help cleaning up these kind of cargoes when spilled, measures for training, etc. The MEPC Chairman was also suggesting some funding or action for research activity with contribution from the industry.


16 States, including non North Sea countries, but EU Members (i.e. Greece, Spain, Austria, Luxembourg, Italy) request that the North Sea be adopted as an area where ships have to use fuel oil with a max. sulphur content of 1.5% by weight. As expected, there was some support (e.g. USA, Russia, Poland) but also significant opposition (e.g. Liberia, Panama, Singapore, Ukraine, India). The latter group arguments are:

* cost-benefit not demonstrated

* need of a written commitment from the submitting countries that 1.5% sulphur fuel oil is available before the status of the North Sea is recognised

* IMO needs to analyse whether the submission does cover all IMO Guidelines to grant such a status and whether the submission satisfies the IMO Guidelines


The progress of this issue has been positive, although the outcome will still be guidelines, rather than mandatory.  A major point to be discussed is what to do with countries who either have not signed up to MARPOL or have but been defeated by the effort of complying. The issue is being discussed, but at the end of the day it all comes down to money, and the working group is trying to give the best possible practical advice, without beeing too lengthy. Another interesting aspect is the auditing of the reception facilities in place. Concern from some ports organisations and administrations who do not wish to be audited by IMO, or any one else for that matter, has seen this changed from auditing to assessment, with the emphasis on self-assessment. If and when a regulation is introduced, (such as the EU directive on reception facilities), the advantage to associations like INTERTANKO would be that an assessment made by the port could be used in establishing whether the reception facilities are sufficient or not. If an assessment form has not been utilised, that could be taken up as well.  For further information