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Tom Kirk*: Outcomes of the MEPC 70 meeting and their implications for shipowners

ABS has recently produced the following article on the ‘Outcomes of the MEPC 70 meeting and their implications for shipowners’ authored by Tom Kirk,

Director of Environmental Performance, ABS, it discusses the highly significant implications for shipowners – what was agreed and the committee’s continuing work – based on a series of briefings for clients in Germany, Denmark, Greece and Spain, immediately following the meeting.

The outcomes of the 70th meeting of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC70) at the International Maritime Organisation are highly significant for shipowners. To share its insights on what was agreed and the committee’s continuing work, ABS held a series of briefings for clients in Germany, Denmark, Greece and Spain, immediately following the meeting.
ABS spends significant time tracking the development of international regulations and provides technical input through various working groups and committees. In addition, ABS monitors environmental regulations and technology development that impacts compliance.
As a result, ABS is well-positioned to inform owners of new regulatory requirements, update them on issues that require continued attention and help them plan compliance strategies.
To further support its clients, ABS offers assistance with regulatory timeline planning, helping navigate the certification and survey cycles of their vessels in terms of regulatory developments.
Ballast Water
Despite the significance of the recent ratification of the IMO Ballast Water Management Convention, by the meeting’s conclusion, the industry does not yet have clear agreement on the implementation dates.
Because agreement could not be reached, it will be on the agenda for the next meeting of the MEPC in May 2017, where participants will consider whether the effective compliance date should remain as originally proposed – the first renewal of the IOPP certificate after September 2017 – or after September 2019.
The main work approved by MEPC 70 was the Revision of G8 standards – amendments that are intended to provide greater transparency and a more robust approval process for BWT systems.
Concerns had previously been expressed that approved systems have not all been shown to be operationally robust. Revision of the Guidelines is intended to address weaknesses in the approval process, and the expectation is that owners will have more confidence that what they are buying will perform as expected.
ABS has developed a Ballast Water Management Technology Evaluation Service to help owners understand installation requirements, technical functionality, design parameters, performance and operability of different ballast water management systems to meet their regulatory compliance needs. The evaluation provides owners with information that enables them to confidently decide on a system that best fits each of their vessels' design and operational profiles.
Shipowners will continue to work on twin compliance tracks to meet the IMO Convention and USCG rules, and while there could be an intersection between these different requirements, there is unlikely to be convergence. It remains possible that the first USCG Type Approvals will be granted before the end of 2016.
Other BWM issues for further discussion ahead of MEPC 71 include the concept of ‘experience building’ – the period of time between the owners installing systems and when authorities begin taking action for noncompliance.
A discussion also will be held in the intersessional correspondence group about contingency measures - what happens if ballast water is known by the crew not to be in compliance or is determined as such by inspection.
Global Sulphur Cap
Following the agreement announced at MEPC 70, shipowners now have certainty on the effective date for a global cap on sulphur in marine fuel of 0.5%, but this does not remove all the challenges.
There was considerable discussion around the safety issues of fuel blending and quality – as well as how enforcement of the rules is carried out on the high seas. These implementation issues have been referred to the PPR subcommittee for further discussion.
There was a recognition at the IMO meeting that potential problems relating to fuel quality and availability might still exist in the run-up to the alternative date of 2025; however, it was determined that 2020 would be an achievable target for the industry.
Energy Efficiency/Greenhouse Gases
After significant discussion, it was agreed that there would be no change to the Phase 2 targets of the Energy Efficiency Design Index. However (with the exception of RoRo and RoPax vessels) early implementation will be considered for Phase 3 targets with the possible addition of a Phase 4.
The IMO’s three-step programme to collect, report and verify fuel consumption data recorded from ships moved forward, with the an update of the SEEMP to include the data collection system which will go into effect on January 1 2019.
There remain differences in terms of compliance with the IMO data collection system and the EU MRV, the main areas being that the IMO requires reporting of fuel consumed, whereas the EU requires cargo carried, fuel consumed and CO2 emitted.
A large amount of time was spent discussing the IMO ‘fair share contribution’ towards the global GHG emissions targets. It was decided that more work was needed on this topic ahead of MEPC 71, in order to refine the roadmap for such a contribution. An intersessional working group will be convened in advance of MEPC 71.
There is an expectation that the roadmap will include short, medium and long term emissions targets, but no significant numerical targets will be proposed until the industry has completed three cycles of data collection in 2021.

* Director of Environmental Performance, ABS

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