Report from IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee

The IMO's Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) held its 54th session this week. The following are considered to be issues of interest to our members. 

No need for double bottom protection for oil tankers' ballast pumps

IMO/MEPC has recently adopted a new regulation requiring double bottom protection for pump rooms of oil tankers. The new regulation, however, did not define the term "pump room" and, as requested by the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS), MEPC 54 considered whether "pump room" should include ballast and/or cargo pump rooms.  In our Weekly News No. 5/2006 of 3. February 2006 we reported, and provided a copy of, an INTERTANKO paper submitted to MEPC 54 expressing the view that ballast pumps in oil tankers should not be required to be located above a double bottom. Our paper gave a series of drawbacks of such an interpretation. MEPC 54 agreed with INTERTANKO's view and therefore double bottom protection is required for cargo pump rooms only. 

Double hull protection for ship's oil fuel tank

MEPC 54 adopted a new MARPOL Annex I Regulation for the protection of fuel tanks. This has been previously reported and it will apply to ships with a building contract from 1 August 2007 and delivery on or after 1 August 2010. MEPC 54 has agreed that for new purpose-built FPSOs and FSUs only, this regulation will only require double side protection to oil fuel tanks. However, when undertaking any voyage away from the operating section for whatever purpose, the double bottom oil fuel tank should be kept empty unless it has the protection provided by this new regulation. MEPC 54 has drafted new paragraphs for the record of construction and equipment for FPSOs and FSUs to reflect these interpretations. MEPC 54 has also decided that these new provisions will apply to FPSOs and FSUs that are converted from existing oil tankers.

Re-issuance of IOPP Certificates

As previously reported, Annex I of MARPOL has been revised and it will come into force on 1 January 2007. All existing ships' International Oil Prevention Prevention (IOPP) Certificates will then need to be re-issued in accordance with the revised provisions and using revised forms. MEPC 54 has agreed with an IACS suggestion that port state control should accept the existing certificates until their current expiry date when Administrations will issue new IOPPCs according to the revised form. 

Use and carriage of heavy grades of oil in the AntarcticSea

A controversial document was submitted by Norway suggesting a new MARPOL Annex I regulation to call for the prohibition of the use and carriage of heavy grade oils into the AntarcticSea. The consequences of such a provision would mean that ships entering the ArcticSea would not be allowed to use fuels having a density above 900 Kg/cum. A number of Governments expressed concern with such a suggestion but it was, however, agreed to invite Norway to consider re-submitting its paper at the next session of MEPC on which a risk analysis should be included, together with possible impacts on countries' abilities to conduct search and rescue, and on fishing as well as commercial ship trading in the Arctic Sea.  

Bunker Delivery Notes and Fuel Oil Sampling

MEPC 54 issued a Circular reminding Governments that the issuance of bunker delivery notes and fuel oil sampling should follow the guidance in resolution MEPC.96(47). However, it was recognised that a few ship types such as High Speed Crafts, Platform and Offshore supply vessels may not be able to comply with all the guidelines in MEPC.96(47) and that these would be allowed to use equivalent or alternative procedures as approved by the Administration. In other words, members should instruct their tanker crews that fuel sampling should be done as indicated in MEPC.96(47) or make reference to the INTERTANKO Guide to Bunkering of Ships for the purpose of Annex VI to MARPOL, which gives further details on how to follow the IMO guidelines. 

Contact: Dragos Rauta