MARPOL Annex VI - Update

At last Annex VI of MARPOL 73/78 has been fully ratified and finally enters into force next year on 19 May 2005, setting limits on sulphur oxide and nitrogen oxide emissions and prohibiting deliberate ozone-depleting emissions.

These Regulations for the Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships, which were adopted more than six years ago in September 1997, have been the subject of considerable effort by INTERTANKO, which has worked with the other shipowners’ organisations to provide the last push necessary for full ratification – including a personal letter sent last summer to key ministers urging them to sign up. Samoa’s ratification now brings the number of ratifying states to the required 15 states with over 50% (actually 54.57%) of world merchant shipping tonnage.

The States are: Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Liberia, Marshall Islands, Norway, Panama, Samoa, Singapore, Spain, Sweden and Vanuatu.

Marpol Annex VI regulates the emission into the atmosphere of specified pollutants from ships by limiting the discharge of nitrogen oxides from larger marine diesel engines; governing the sulphur content of marine diesel fuel; prohibiting the emission of ozone-depleting compounds during the transfer of cargoes between tankers and terminals; setting standards for shipboard incinerators and fuel oil quality; and establishing requirements for platforms and drilling rigs at sea.

INTERTANKO has assigned significant resources to educating and assisting legislators in Brussels in their work related to the EU Directive 1999/32 on air pollution. As part of an industry coalition, INTERTANKO has also been active on this front in WashingtonD.C. to dissuade the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from proposing standards for monitoring NOx emissions and maximum allowable NOx emissions from ships that are different from those in MARPOL Annex VI.

Note that the US Environmental Protection Agency has sent the ratification instruments to the US Senate for verification and submission to the US President for final endorsement. The US President signed the Convention in April 2003 and the White House recommended to the US Senate to ratify the Convention. Although INTERTANKO applauds the US progress towards ratification, the shipping industry finds it difficult to understand the reasons of such a slow activity within Governments. The shipping industry questions the actual interest within Maritime Nations and Port State Nations for enacting international agreements.


INTERTANKO position, including references to why Governments may be interested in agreeing with INTERTANKO

The policy adopted by INTERTANKO, which is line with the policy of all the industry, is:

·      urge Governments to ratify MARPOL Annex VI as soon as possible

·      urge Governments to ratify MARPOL Annex VI as it was adopted in IMO in 1997

·      if there is a need for improvements to MARPOL Annex VI, take this up in IMO only AFTER MARPOL Annex VI has entered into force

·           recognise that none of the regulations in the EU Directive and  the US Clean Air Act address an essential part of the MARPOL Annex VI, namely quality control and quality monitoring of bunkers delivered to ships. 

The reasons for each of those positions are as follows:

·         MARPOL Annex VI is the only international agreement in place. It was adopted by IMO and only needs Government ratifications. Air Pollution is a global problem and a global responsibility and fragmented legislations would not improve the situation at all in the long run. In addition, ships cannot change their regime from a port to another and, if required to do so, that might induce side safety risks, such as engine breakdowns.

·        MARPOL Annex VI has been adopted 6 years ago and any attempt to change the provisions before its ratification would only delay its implementation unnecessarily and to the detriment of the environmental protection. Governments should feel responsible for unnecessary excess of SOx emissions, especially in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea because of lack of ratification of MARPOL Annex VI. This demonstrates the point that complaining about the current standards of the MARPOL Annex VI does not help the environment, to the contrary contributed to larger emission level than it would have been with MARPOL Annex VI in place.

·        Since technology and awareness has increased since 1997, MARPOL Annex VI would be probably revisited. But for reasons already explained, the fast track is first ratification worldwide and thereafter revision.

·         IMO has recognised that the need to regulate the quality of bunkers delivered to ships not only as sulphur content but in accordance with the international standards for quality. Both EU Directive and the US Clean Air Act fail to include this extremely important criterion in their provisions. Apparently, the new proposal by US Environmental Protection Agency to amend their rules on emissions from marine engines, do make reference to the bunker quality and recognise the standards of MARPOL Annex VI as the norm.

Governments, especially Flag States have a moral duty towards their shipowners to implement as soon as possible MARPOL Annex VI and thus avoid fragmented legislations that would create many difficulties for all commercial ships. Flags like Italy, France, Belgium, Cyprus, Malta, Japan, etc.  should have been very concerned with the possible development of Regional and National unilateral requirements because of the slow process of ratification of MARPOL Annex VI.

Governments of Port States, especially those that have been involved so much in pushing development and adoption of MARPOL Annex VI in IMO have a moral obligation to fulfill their commitment to the action they started and concluded in IMO last decade. Port States from Northern Europe that did not ratify yet MARPOL Annex VI have a moral responsibility that the North Sea and the Baltic Sea are not yet Sulphur Emission Control Areas as it should have been fro few years should MARPOL Annex VI be an international recognised instrument.