Thursday, February 23, 2012

Greenhouse Gases, Oil Pollution and Alien Invasions Subjects for Shipping Environment Meeting

All Forms of Pollution under Discussion at IMO Session Next Week
Shipping News Feature

UK – WORLDWIDE – The Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) will meet in London for its 63rd session from 27th February to 2nd March 2012 and the discussion will range across the entire spectrum of possible causes of pollution from global shipping. Subjects include market based measures to reduce greenhouse gases, energy efficiency, suitable fuels, waste control, oil pollution and how to prevent the transfer of alien life into vulnerable waters with the use of modern ballast water treatment technology.

Also under review will be the recycling of ships, a hot topic given the plethora of tonnage currently available and the price of scrap metal. An inter sessional correspondence group of the IMO has been refining the requirements of last years Ship Recycling Plan and the development of the Inventory of Hazardous Materials Guidelines. These are aimed at assisting ship-recycling facilities and shipping companies to commence introducing voluntary improvements to meet the requirements of the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships, which was adopted in May 2009.

The MEPC will also consider, for approval, four manuals aimed at supporting decision-making for tactical response to oil pollution incidents. The manuals have been developed by the OPRC‑HNS[1] Technical Group and is intended to deal with a problem which remains a curse of the industry. Consideration will be given to the adoption of the draft 2012 Guidelines for the Implementation of MARPOL Annex V and draft 2012 Guidelines for the Development of Garbage Management Plans intended to assist in the implementation of waste disposal regulations due to come into force next January.

One of the first subjects for discussion will be air pollution and the MEPC will consider three sets of draft guidelines intended to assist in the implementation of the Regulations on Energy Efficiency for Ships in MARPOL Annex VI. The draft guidelines were developed by a meeting of the Working Group on Energy Efficiency Measures for Ships in January. Work on developing Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) frameworks for those ships that are not covered by the current EEDI formula will also be progressed. The status of technological developments to implement stricter Nitrogen Oxide emissions will be reviewed along with matters relating to the availability of fuel oil to meet the requirements set out in MARPOL Annex VI.

The MEPC will continue to consider a number of proposals for market-based measures (MBMs), to assist the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping. This follows the adoption, in July 2011, of amendments to MARPOL Annex VI Regulations for the prevention of air pollution from ships, to add a new chapter 4 to Annex VI on Regulations on energy efficiency for ships to make mandatory the (EEDI), for new ships, and the Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan (SEEMP) for all ships and matters discussed at the 27th IMO Assembly last November.

The IMO are keen to ensure market based measures are utilised to reduce green house gas emissions following a report on such measures by an Expert Group, which had carried out a feasibility study and impact assessment of several possible such tactics submitted by Governments and observer organizations. The proposals under review range from a contribution or levy on all CO2 emissions from international shipping or only from those ships not meeting the EEDI requirement, via emission trading systems, to schemes based on a ship’s actual efficiency, both by design (EEDI) and operation.

Items targeted by such MBM’s include certainty in emission reductions or carbon price; revenues for mitigation, adaptation and capacity-building activities in developing countries; incentives for technical and operational improvements in shipping; and offsetting opportunities.

After numerous calamitous incidents involving the introduction of alien organisms detrimental to habitat due to the casual disposal of ballast water MEPC 63 will consider the reports of the recent meetings of the Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environment Protection (GESAMP) Ballast Water Working Group, with a view to granting basic approval to four, and final approval to five, ballast water management systems that make use of active substances.

The MEPC is expected to reiterate the need for those countries that have not yet done so to ratify the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments, 2004, to achieve its entry into force at the earliest opportunity. To date, 33 States, with an aggregate merchant shipping tonnage of more than 26% of the world total, have ratified the Convention. The Convention 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 become Parties to it.

These matters, along with guidelines for the development of the Inventory of Hazardous Materials, plus consideration of further development of draft guidelines for survey and for the inspection of ships under the Hong Kong Convention mean there is much to do then, and, although the IMO wheels turn necessarily slowly, due simply to the complexity of the matters in hand and the size of the industry it tries to guide with all the disparate opinions and vested interests it has to negotiate, there is a feeling that all the matters in hand need urgent attention and action to maintain credibility with the world at large and to keep safe lives and the environment as a whole.