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Friday, October 19, 2018


In a meeting in which the most notable issue to be debated was the phase-out of single hull tankers (see Weekly News 40) a great deal of progress was also made on the other main issues on the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) agenda:

Harmful aquatic organisms in ballast water

An issue that now needs to make progress having acquired Working Group (WG) status in the IMO in the early 1990s, the WG stripped the subject down to its basic constituents and came to the conclusion that three basic issues need to be resolved if the legislation is to be useful and practical:

  1. Requirements for existing and new vessels – A great deal of this discussion focused on the merits of ballast water exchange as a solution to the problem of invasive species. Using papers from Israel and INTERTANKO to highlight the environmental concerns regarding this technique, together with papers from IACS and Canada on the technical and safety problems, the WG concluded that ballast water exchange at sea should not be seen as the only option and thus should not be specified in the legislation. It is likely, however, that for new vessels this will become a specified option. As a result of this the WG decided that a circular should be sent from IMO to warn owners that this may become mandatory in the future and suggesting design options which may aid ballast water exchange and minimise any retrofitting that may be required.
  2. Development of Standards – An issue that has been discussed several times in the past came to the fore in this meeting as it was suggested that, for the legislation to be of any value, the first step had to be the development of a standard to which ballast water should be treated. A number of complexities are thrown into the arena with this question, for example; should the standard focus on the number of organisms destroyed, the number of organisms removed or on other aspects such as the chemical composition of the ballast water. A request for papers on this has been made by the Committee.
  3. Measurements of the Standard – Two options were given as to how the standards should be measured; via a water quality assessment, or via the use of an equipment certification much like the ODM as per Annex I of MARPOL. Again the Committee has asked for submissions on the measurement of standards so that it may be resolved at the next meeting of the MEPC in April 2001.

Once these aspects have been resolved then the draft text can be finalised by MEPC’s 47th meeting late in 2001. The Two Tier system still exists in the draft text and it is expected to remain in this format. Tier One requires mandatory Ballast Water and Sediment Management Plans, a Ballast Water Record Book and a system to be introduced for existing and new ships to comply with management standards. Tier Two will be the ‘Special Requirements’ aspect of the legislation that will be mandatory within certain areas in which states will apply discharge and uptake control zones.

Harmful effects of the use of anti-fouling paints for ships

Further progress was made in drafting the text of the legal instrument although there was no clear decision made on the entry into force requirements. This aspect has been left open for discussion at the next MEPC meeting, where the paper will be discussed further by the Committee and then circulated so that it may be ready for adoption by the Assembly in late 2001.

A decision was reached on the use of sealer coatings: a sealer coat can be applied to a ship’s hull over the TBT-based paint and then coated with the new anti-fouling system.

Some discussion took place regarding the banning of future chemicals such as copper when it was suggested that scientific evidence was not required before a ban could be introduced by the IMO. This was over-ruled at the last session of the Committee, which now requires detailed scientific evidence before legislation can be passed on any other chemicals or biocides in anti-fouling systems.

Implementation of the OPRC Convention

The level of interest in this working group had been raised by the focus on spills of heavy fuel oil and emulsified oils. Although some felt that this was an overreaction to the Erika incident, work on the revision of the Manual on Oil Pollution has now increased with the expansion of the section on heavy fuel oil spills.

Continuing the focus on heavy fuel oil spills, a Research and Development Forum addressing the issue will be held in March 2002. France has offered to host the event and requests for support have been sent to other states and industry bodies. INTERTANKO’s Environmental Committee consider it a worthwhile event in which to participate.

Other issues

A report was given by the Regional Organization for the Protection of the Marine Environment (ROPME) on the state of implementation of Annex I and Annex V of MARPOL in the Middle East, i.e. the installation of adequate reception facilities. Although attempts have been made in the past to have this area classed as a Special Area under MARPOL, this project has now gathered the full support of all the ROPME states. ROPME stated that it expects to meet the deadline for implementation, which is set for the end of 2002.

The Committee also decided that the Guidelines for fuel sampling under Annex VI (Air Pollution, MARPOL) were to be referred back to the Design and Equipment sub-Committee on recommendation by INTERTANKO and IACS. In particular this focuses on the sampling point for bunkers with the latter two organisations suggesting the appropriate place should be at the ship’s manifold. This received a great deal of support and it expected to be passed by the sub-Committee.