MEPC 57 – Outline agreement reached on revisions to Annex VI

At the 57th session of the IMO’s Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC 57), held this week in London, outline agreement was reached on a package of amendments to MARPOL Annex VI. Subject to formal adoption at MEPC 58 in October 2008, these revisions will enter into force through the tacit amendment procedure in February 2010.


INTERTANKO has welcomed this package and expressed satisfaction that the goals set by INTERTANKO’s Council, namely that the revisions should:

-          ensure a solid platform of requirements

-          be realistic and feasible

-          seek a long-term and positive reduction of air emissions from ships, and

-   contribute to a long-term and predictable regulatory regime

have been fully achieved.


It is hoped that these measures, which address regional and global concerns on sulphur oxide (SOx) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, from both new and existing ships, in an integrated manner will remove the pressure for regional legislation and the resulting complexities and complications for owners and administrations.


INTERTANKO’s pro-active proposals in 2006 for a phased introduction of low sulphur cleaner fuels, coupled with other measures to lower NOx and particulate matter (PM) emissions, while ensuring compliant fuel availability and that the ships and crews are not burdened with further excessive requirements, together with ease of monitoring and verification for administrations, led to much debate across the industry. Tabled initially to promote “discussion” during the revision process, INTERTANKO’s proposals became the catalyst which, coupled with wide assessment of the implications and frequently intense and sometimes acrimonious arguments, has led to agreement on this package that will see a significant reduction in harmful emissions from shipping over the coming decade. The original INTERTANKO submission to the IMO BLG’s intersessional meeting provided the focus that led to a more radical approach to the revision process and to the need to find global solutions to increasing regional pressures, which INTERTANKO had already identified as presenting a growing threat to the ability to put in place further global regulation on air emissions.


At the time of going to press the formal draft text is not yet available. The following however provides a summary of the principal measures:


SOx and PM emissions:


Regulation 14 of MARPOL Annex VI has been significantly revised and, the new draft addresses compliance with SOx and PM regulations through the sulphur content of the fuel oils to be used.


For the Global Cap, the sulphur content limits are as follows:


4.5% prior to 1 January 2012

3.50% on and after 1 January 2012

0.50% on and after 1 January 2020


For the Emission Control Areas, the sulphur content will be as follows:


1.50% prior to 1 March 2010

1.00% on and after 1 March 2010

0.10% on and after 1 January 2015


The existing Emission Control Areas are the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. It is up to the individual Governments or group of Governments to justify and declare other Emission Control Areas.


The amended Regulation 14 has a “review provision” which requires the IMO to complete by 2018 a review of the availability of the 0.50% sulphur content fuel. Based on the results of such a review, the Parties to MARPOL Annex VI will decide whether the global cap of 0.50% can be enforced from 1 January 2020. If not, the 0.50% sulphur global cap will be enforced on 1 January 2025 without any additional review.


Abatement Technologies


Reference to any abatement technology is now placed in the amended Regulation 4 of the revised Annex VI as “equivalent measures”. An Administration may allow the fitting of abatement technologies onboard ships, but they have to acknowledge that these are at least as effective in terms of air emissions as required under the relevant regulations for SOx, PM and NOx emissions, that they operate within the parameters established under the relevant IMO guidelines and finally, and importantly, that the use of the abatement technologies does not harm the environment. From a ship operators’ point of view, this last element is very important since under the current Annex VI provisions, it is the ship’s obligation to demonstrate that the use of a abatement technology is not harmful to the environment.


NOx emissions


Regulation 13 of the revised Annex VI carries the following new elements:


Existing engines onboard ships constructed between 1 January 1990 and 31 December 1999, with a power output of more than 5,000 kW and a per cylinder displacement at or above 90 litres, will have to adopt modifications to meet the Tier I NOx emission limitations (as for the engines onboard ships constructed on and after 1 January 2000).


There are a few important steps for the application of this retro-active provision:


If the engine already meets Tier I NOx emission limits, then a simple certification is sufficient.


If the engine does not meet the Tier I NOx emission limitations, it is subject to measures ONLY:


-          if there is an upgrading system certified by an Administration and the certification identifies that such a system ensures a reduction to the Tier I limits of that particular engine;

-          the upgrading system is considered commercially available 12 months after an Administration deposits the notification on certification to IMO;

-          the engine would need to be upgraded at the ship’s first renewal survey after the upgrading system becomes commercially available.


In case the upgrading system is not available at the time of completion of the renewal survey (ship owner has to document that), the flag would give an extension until the next Annual Survey.


As part of the certification, the Administration should check that the upgrading system does not decrease the engine rating by more than 1%, increase the fuel consumption by more than 2% (consumption according to the test cycle set for the NOx Technical Code) and that it has no other adverse effect on the durability or reliability of the engine.


Finally, in order to relate the  upgrading to an acceptable cost/benefit level, this provision will use a formula on limiting the “cost” of the upgrading system in relation to the reduction of NOx emission (reduction is considered the difference between the initial  emission level of the engine and the Tier I limit respectively). The formula will be further assessed and probably concluded at MEPC 58 in October 2008 when the approved revision is scheduled for final adoption.


Fuel Availability


There will be new provisions in Regulation 18 stating that:

(a) each Party shall take reasonable steps to ensure proper supply of compliant fuel;

(b) should a ship be able to demonstrate it was unable to buy the compliant fuel, then there should be no penalty measures taken against it.

The ship will have to notify its Administration and the relevant port of call each time it cannot find the compliant fuel.


Fuel Oil Quality


The two important amendments are:


-          a standard fuel verification procedure of fuel samples for compliance (this is in response to many reports from ship operators on inconsistencies between the data contained in the Bunker Delivery Note and the test results from commercial samples):

-          a decision that IMO sends a letter to inviting ISO to revisit the ISO 8217 standard for marine fuels.


Contact: Dragos Rauta