IMO: No Final Climate Plan Until 2023


Published Oct 28, 2016 11:12 PM by The Maritime Executive

This week, the IMO's Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) agreed to require most blue-water merchant ships to log their fuel consumption. 

However, the committee did not follow calls from environmental groups to move swiftly towards CO2 emissions regulations and more stringent ship design efficiency requirements. 

Instead, it agreed that a detailed CO2 strategy should not be finalized until 2023, when more data on fleet fuel consumption will be available. In the interim it has created a “road map” towards that final strategy, to include additional studies on emissions.

IMO Secretary General Kitack Lim said that the MEPC road map would "[prove] to the world that IMO continues to lead in delivering on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping." 

Patrick Verhoeven, secretary general of the European Community Shipowners Association, broadly agreed with Lim. “These important decisions demonstrate the global leadership of IMO on regulation of ship emissions,” he said.

EU Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc also expressed optimism. “Data collection is an important first step, and it is very positive that we also started a discussion on a fair contribution of shipping to the climate efforts," she said. 

But the outcome falls short of the goals set by many environmental advocates, including those within the industry.

Prior to this week’s meetings, the Sustainable Shipping Initiative (whose membership includes Maersk, China Navigation, Wartsila and ABS) had called for the IMO to move swiftly to make specific CO2 reduction commitments, like those adopted by 177 nations under the Paris COP21 climate agreement. SSI described this as a "minimum requirement" for MEPC 70, and called for IMO to act based on existing information rather than wait for more data.

The news from MEPC also stands in contrast to an agreement signed in Montreal on October 6, when nearly 200 countries committed to cap CO2 emissions from aviation. Beginning in 2021, airlines will purchase offset credits to account for any growth in emissions beyond 2020 levels.

Environmental groups pointed to the relatively stringent Montreal aviation accord and reacted to the MEPC’s decision for shipping with dismay. Bill Hemmings, shipping director at Transport & Environment, said that "improving ship efficiency is a no brainer and a classic example of a ‘win-win’, but apparently the IMO prefers open-ended reviews to concrete action.” 

The details of the new data-gathering plan and other new measures follow below.

MEPC 70 Highlights: Fuel Consumption Recording

Beginning in 2019, each ship over 5,000 gt on international voyages must record: 

- Fuel consumption for each type of fuel used (HFO, diesel, LNG or other)
- distances travelled, and 
- hours under way. 

To comply, each vessel will also have to have an updated and certified Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan (SEEMP) outlining its methods for collecting and reporting the data. 

Each year, the shipowner will collect data for a fleet, aggregate it into annual values and report it to the appropriate flag administration or recognized organization. The IMO will collect this annualized data from the flag states. 

New NOx ECAs

The MEPC also adopted new NOx Emissions Control Areas (ECAs) in the North Sea and the Baltic. The area is already regulated as an ECA for SOx, but this measure adds controls for nitrogen oxides like those in effect in North America. The measures will only apply to vessels built on or after January 1 of 2021. 

Sulfur Fuel Cap Takes Effect in 2020

Based on an outside review showing adequate bunkers availability and refining capacity, the worldwide 0.5 percent sulfur fuel cap will take effect in 2020 as scheduled.

Ballast Water Management Timeline May Change

The committee expressed concern at the lack of international agreement on how to implement the BWM treaty, and it may decide to give shipowners more time to comply.  

At its next meeting, MEPC will decide whether to require BWM compliance at the ship's first five-year IOPP survey after the treaty takes effect, or whether to push the requirement back until the first such survey after the autumn of 2019 (under certain conditions).

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.