Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Freight And Passenger Vessel Regulations Revised At London Meeting

IMO Environmental Session Covers Wide Range of Problems
Shipping News Feature

UK – WORLDWIDE – Regular readers will know that we expressed a note of concern in our article of the 9th July regarding the considerable amount of work being undertaken by the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) at their 62nd session held in London last week. The committee, which represents the UN in matters pertaining to the pollution of every type produced by the world’s shipping, had what by any standards would be considered a full agenda.

On Saturday we gave a breakdown of the decisions reached by the MEPC regarding the reduction of greenhouse gases (GHG’s) from every type of vessel exceeding 400 tonnes whether container or bulk freight or passenger carrying. It is heartening then to be able to report that great progress appears also to have been made in the other vitally important areas also under the committee’s scrutiny.

The main topics up for discussion were: disposal of garbage and sewage (particularly by passenger liners), the ever present yet often invisible threat posed by alien species contamination by way of ballast water discharge or biofouling by hull borne organisms, the overall energy efficiency of new build and refurbished vessels and the environmentally sound recycling of ships which have reached the end of their lifespan, a policy regarding the carriage of blended bio-fuels, the pollution by black carbon (particularly in the Arctic region) and the overall preparedness for marine pollution incidents.

As well as adopting mandatory measures to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) from international shipping, during the gathering the IMO found time to adopt amendments to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) to designate the United States Caribbean Sea as a new emission control area (ECA); to designate the Baltic Sea as a Special Area with respect to pollution by sewage from ships; and to adopt a revised Annex V related to the control of garbage.

The MEPC adopted MARPOL amendments to designate certain waters adjacent to the coasts of Puerto Rico (United States) and the Virgin Islands (United States) as an ECA for the control of emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOX), sulphur oxides (SOX), and particulate matter under MARPOL Annex VI Regulations for the prevention of air pollution from ships. Another amendment will make old steamships exempt from the requirements on sulphur relating to both the North American and United States Caribbean Sea ECAs. The MARPOL amendments are expected to enter into force on 1st January 2013, with the new ECA taking effect 12 months later.

The MEPC also designated the Strait of Bonifacio as a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA) following its approval in principle at the last session and also agreed, in principle, to designate the Saba Bank in the Caribbean Sea as a PSSA and adopted the first-ever international recommendations to address biofouling of ships, to minimize the transfer of aquatic species. Research indicates that biofouling by creatures carried on the hull or in ballast tanks, is a significant mechanism for species transfer by vessels with a single, fertile, fouling organism having the potential to release many thousands of eggs, spores or larvae into the water with the capacity to found new populations of invasive species such as crabs, fish and jellyfish, sea stars, molluscs and plankton.

The MEPC granted final approval to two and basic approval to seven ballast water management systems aimed at minimizing such problems and took steps to ‘open the door’ to new methods and concepts to prevent risks arising from the transfer of invasive species, provided that such methods will ensure at least the same level of protection of the environment as required by the MEPC and the Ballast Water Management Convention. To date, 28 States, with an aggregate merchant shipping tonnage of 26.37% of the world total, have ratified the Convention which will enter into force twelve months after the date on which not fewer than 30 States, the combined merchant fleets of which constitute not less than 35 percent of the gross tonnage of the world’s merchant shipping, have signed up to it.

The committee adopted amendments to MARPOL Annex IV Prevention of pollution by sewage from ships to include the possibility of establishing “Special Areas” for the prevention of such pollution from passenger ships and to designate the Baltic Sea as a Special Area under this Annex. The amendments are expected to enter into force on 1st January 2013.

The MEPC additionally adopted revised regulations for the prevention of pollution by garbage from ships and these amendments are also expected to enter into force on 1st January 2013. The main changes include the updating of definitions; the inclusion of a new requirement specifying that discharge of all garbage into the sea is prohibited, except as expressly provided otherwise (the discharges permitted in certain circumstances include food wastes, cargo residues and water containing nothing harmful to the marine environment) and other minority changes.

The meeting adopted the 2011 Guidelines for the development of the Ship Recycling Plan as well as updated Guidelines for the development of the Inventory of Hazardous Materials, which are intended to assist in the implementation of the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships, adopted in May 2009 and the committee encouraged Governments to ratify the Convention, which has been signed, subject to ratification, by five countries, and to review the programme of technical assistance aimed at supporting its early implementation.

It was also decided to set up an inter-session working group on energy efficiency measures for ships, (scheduled to take place in February/March 2012) tasked with further development of the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI)to cover vessels not covered hitherto and an in depth analysis of calculation methods for existing and other ship types and propulsion systems not covered by the draft Guidelines whilst reviewing the method of calculation of the EEDI for new ships.

Further agreement was reached concerning the development of guidelines and manuals, on marine pollution preparedness and response and the carriage of blends of petroleum oil and bio-fuels and the preparation of a work plan on addressing the impact in the Arctic of black carbon, a strongly light-absorbing carbonaceous aerosol produced by incomplete combustion of fuel oil and a constituent of primary particulate matter emissions from ships, and to identify a measurement system for the problem and its environmentally damaging effects and to institute suitable control measures.