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Thursday, January 18, 2018

Full Agenda at MEPC 49

Next week at the IMO the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) will meet for its 49th session to address a host of pertinent environmental issues. Although the European proposals for an accelerated phase-out of single-hulled tankers appears to be the primary issue, there are several other matters that will need concluding at this session. INTERTANKO will be present with a large delegation in order to cover all the issues open for debate.

The European Commission together with the European Union Member States have submitted a proposal which calls for an accelerated phase-out schedule for single-hulled tankers, expansion of  the Condition Assessment Scheme (CAS) to all Category 2 and 3 oil tankers over 15 years and a ban on the transport of heavy grades of oil in single-hull tankers. INTERTANKO has been active in the Expert Group gathered by the IMO to assess the impact of the EU proposal and as such will be working during the week to seek a solution to the tonnage supply problems that the proposals may cause. (See also the Round Table press release with industry comments to the revision of MARPOL Annex I.

Although the phase-out issue with its associated proposals will draw much attention, the issues of ship recycling and ballast water management will also require urgent consideration during the session. With the proposed 2004 date for an adoption of the Ballast Water Convention, the session will open with an ‘article-by-article’ debate on the draft text of the Convention. With this as the last session of MEPC before the Assembly, the Committee will have to expend all its diplomacy and powers of compromise to produce a workable and practical text. As it currently stands, the draft Convention still has some serious considerations to overcome, not least the finalisation of a standard to which ballast water should be treated.

Ship recycling will also command a full debate in the plenary during MEPC. The Committee must finalise the draft set of Guidelines on ship recycling so that they may be adopted at the forthcoming Assembly meeting in November. Again, there are some contentious issues to be dealt with including the conclusion on the definition of a Green Passport for new ships.

In what has been seen as an alternative method of applying a single-hulled tanker ban in European waters, a collection of western European States have submitted a proposal to designate a majority of the north European waters as a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA). The designation of this area, covering much of the EEZ from southern Spain into the North Sea, is seen by the shipping industry as abusing the principle of a PSSA. This designation is normally reserved only for highly sensitive marine ecosystems such as the Great Barrier Reef. More often than not, this will require all types of shipping to avoid the area. The EU proposal however expands the area beyond a reasonable limit and then only requires the banning of single-hulled tankers carrying heavy grades of oil. This latter proposal being in contravention of UNCLOS. INTERTANKO will raise its concerns during the meeting to avoid this proposal becoming a precedent for the designation of large areas of PSSAs around the world.

MEPC will also have to make its final decision with regards to the amendments to Annex II of MARPOL and the pollution categorization system which has been under discussion for over three years. INTERTANKO will again be pushing for the acceptance of a 3-category system as opposed to the 5-category proposal. The former being a stronger pollution control system which will be easier to understand, easier to implement and easier to police, while at the same time bold enough to protect the marine environment well into the 21st Century.

Further ‘on-going’ matters will also require the attention of the INTERTANKO delegation, not least the approval of the final set of Guidelines for the Sampling and Inspection of Anti-fouling Systems, inadequacy of port reception facilities and the completion of a work plan on greenhouse gas emissions from shipping.

A report on the outcome of the meeting will be given in next week’s Weekly News.