IMO Carbon Plan Draws Fire as MEPC 75 Gets Under Way

ocean rebellion IMO
Guy Reece / Striking Faces / Ocean Rebellion

Published Nov 16, 2020 1:43 PM by The Maritime Executive

The IMO's proposed carbon reduction amendment to MARPOL is drawing criticism from environmental NGOs and high-end shipbuilders as MEPC 75 gets under way. 

"The proposed level of ambition of the proposed Amendments to the MARPOL Convention is not strict enough to utilize the full reduction potential of innovative energy-saving technologies and available alternative fuels," cautioned the Shipyard and Maritime Equipment Association (SEA Europe) in a statement Monday. 

According to SEA Europe and EU shipbuilding association CESA , the CO2 reduction potential of IMO's new Carbon Intensity Indicator (CII) is unclear because there are no mandatory measures for verification and enforcement. Compliance is based solely on shipowner self-assessment, not on binding requirements for vessels that don't meet standards. SEA Europe warned that this will "disadvantage progressive shipowners and shipbuilding companies economically," disincentivizing innovation by giving a competitive edge to low-cost, high-carbon operations. 

“IMO needs a more robust GHG strategy, which is enforcing what is technically feasible. To increase regulatory efficiency in climate protection, the IMO members need to increase its
ecological payload," said CESA's representative to IMO, Dr. Ralf Soren Marquardt.

The proposed rules have support from INTERCARGO and the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS). According to ICS, which contributed to the draft, the regulation features a mandatory "A-E rating system" and expects that charterers will offer their business to highly rated, fuel-efficient ships. Ships with a "D" or "E" rating would have to submit an improvement plan for attaining at least "C" status. ICS suggests that low-rated ships would face negative consequences on the market, and that this would provide a business incentive to become more fuel-efficient. 

NGO objections

Environmental NGO Transport & Environment, which is part of an advocacy coalition with observer status at IMO, says that the proposal lacks a carbon intensity target and weakens existing requirements for efficient engine selection. In addition, according to T&E, ships would be allowed to operate with noncompliant "D" or "E" ratings for three years before they have to file an improvement plan. If they opt not to comply indefinitely, they would be permitted to do so without legal penalty, as all enforcement clauses have been removed from the proposal. Overall, according to T&E and its partners, the draft regulation would reduce the business-as-usual emissions trajectory of shipping by just 0.6 to 1.3 percent by 2030.

The decarbonization advocacy group Ocean Rebellion - the maritime affiliate of Extinction Rebellion - expressed its views of the deal in simpler terms, staging a "Viking burial" for the Paris Climate Agreement in front of IMO headquarters and a fake "oil spill" on the steps of the Baltic Exchange. 

"We demand governments and the IMO reject the current proposal and return to negotiations to develop a proposal that turns shipping emissions downwards immediately, acting now to address the climate emergency and respect slender remaining Paris-compliant carbon budgets in a credible and science based manner," Ocean Rebellion said in a statement.


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