Updates on CAS, HGOs, conversions, FPSOs and Annex VI from the IMO’s MEPC 52

Further to our articles in Weekly NEWS Nos. 42 and 43 on the IMO’s Marine Environment Committee meeting last month (MEPC 52), we have additional information on CAS, heavy grade oils, dates for double hull conversions, FPSOs and Annex I, unified interpretations of Annex VI and survey guidelines, Annex VI amendments for sulphur in fuel.

CAS (Condition Assessment Scheme) in tankers of 15 years of age and above only - INTERTANKO requested clarification of the wording of the requirements of MARPOL Annex I regulation 13H(6)(a). It was thought it might be interpreted as making CAS mandatory for oil tankers below 15 years of age when transporting crude oils of density at 15ºC higher than 900 kg/m3 but lower than 945 kg/m3, beyond the dates specified in regulation 13H(6)(a).

In the view of INTERTANKO this interpretation would be inconsistent with paragraph 5.1.3 of CAS whereby CAS exclusively applies to oil tankers of 15 years of age and over.

MEPC 52 debated the issue in depth and reached the conclusion that, in drafting regulation 13H, MEPC 50 had never had the intention of making CAS mandatory for oil tankers of less than 15 years operating under regulation 13H(6)(a). A Unified Interpretation would read that, with regard to regulation 13 H 6 (a):

the first CAS survey shall be carried out concurrent with the first intermediate or renewal survey:

- after 5 April 2005, or

- after the date when the ship reaches 15 years of age,

whichever occurs later.

Clarification of the definition of heavy grade oils in MARPOL Annex I (Regulations for the prevention of pollution by oil) - whether the definitions of fuel oil in both the revised MARPOL Annex I regulation 13G and new regulation 13H should include some types of heavy oil, such as lubricants and cat feed or feedstock, which now continue to be carried in single-hull oil tankers beyond the deadline specified in regulation 13H. MEPC 52 agreed to send the issue to BLG 9 (IMO Sub-Committee on Bulk Liquids and Gases) for consideration and report back to the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 53) in July 2005. It was recognised that should the amendments be approved by MEPC 53, they could enter into force in July 2007.

New "delivery" date for tankers converted to double hulls -MEPC 52 approved a Unified Interpretation (suggested by the Marshall Islands) according to which a single-hull oil tanker that has undergone a major conversion resulting in the replacement of the full vessel’s forebody, including the entire cargo tank section, with a double hull structure would have a new delivery date coinciding with the date when the major conversion was completed. The text of the Unified Interpretation is as follows:

For the purpose of implementation and application of regulation 20 (current regulation 13G) and determining the phase-out date of a single-hull oil tanker as per the requirements of regulation 20, where an oil tanker has undergone a major conversion as defined in MARPOL regulation 1 that has resulted in the replacement of the oil tanker’s forebody, including the entire cargo carrying section, and the tanker complies with all relevant provisions of MARPOL regulation 18 as if it were a new Category 2 or 3 oil tanker, then the major conversion completion date of the oil tanker shall be deemed to be the delivery date as specified in regulation 20.

Guidelines for the application of the revised MARPOL Annex I requirements to FPSOs (Floating Production, Storage and Offshore Loading facilities) and FSUs (Floating Storage Units) - MEPC 52 agreed to revisit the MEPC Circular on Guidelines for the application of MARPOL Annex I requirements to FPSOs and FSUs (MEPC/Circ.406) to consider whether this Circular should also indicate how Regulation 13H (heavy grades of oil) and Regulation 23 (accidental oil outflow performance) apply to FPSO and FSUs. BLG 9 was requested to consider this issue.

Unified interpretations of Annex VI of MARPOL 73/78- IACS submitted 70 unified interpretations to Annex VI (Regulations for the prevention of air pollution from ships) and to the NOx Technical Code. INTERTANKO submitted a paper containing comments to the IACS unified interpretations but also a proposal for some additional interpretations and amendments to Annex VI and the NOx Technical Code. MEPC 52 agreed to instruct the IMO Design and Equipment Sub-Committee to consider, as a matter of urgency, the proposed unified interpretations and report its considerations to MEPC 53.

Survey Guidelines for Annex VI of MARPOL - MARPOL Annex VI comes into force on 19 May 2005 and IMO has not yet developed Survey Guidelines for Annex VI. These Survey Guidelines are required for compliance with regulations 5 and 6 of Annex VI and Chapters 2 and 6 of the NOx Technical Code in order to ensure unified and consistent implementation. MEPC 52 instructed its Flag State Implementation (FSI) Sub-Committee to develop, as a matter of urgency, the draft Guidelines under the Harmonised System of Survey and Certification (HSSC) and to submit them to MEPC 53 for approval. MEPC 53 is not until July 2005, two months after Annex VI enters into force - administrations have ignored Annex VI and this is one operational consequence. The FSI was also instructed to develop guidelines for port state control (PSC) on Annex VI.

MEPC requests suggestions for amending MARPOL Annex VI - MEPC 52 decided to invite submissions with proposed amendments to Annex VI and the NOx Technical Code to MEPC 53. This was the result of discussions around the proposal from the Islamic Republic of Iran to establish a timetable for the uniform global reduction of the sulphur content in bunker oils to a desired level but eliminating the concept of Sulphur Emission Control Areas (SECAs). (In these areas, the sulphur content of fuel oil used onboard ships must not exceed 1.5% m/m. Alternatively, ships must fit an exhaust gas cleaning system or use any other technological method to limit SOx emissions.) Another submission by Friends of the Earth International suggested lowering the global cap of the sulphur content in fuels but increasing the number of SECAs. It was interesting to follow a debate in which most of Governments which expressed an opinion had not found the time to ratify MARPOL Annex VI adopted by the IMO as long ago as 1997!

Contact: Dragos Rauta