In a step toward determining what possible climate change actions are needed from the international shipping sector, the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has approved a mandatory system for collecting data on ships' fuel consumption.
Ships of 5,000 gross tonnage or more will have to record and report their consumption for every type of fuel they use to their flag State at the end of the calendar year.
The flag State will determine whether the reporting meets requirements, issue a Statement of Compliance to the ship and transfer the data to the IMO Ship Fuel Consumption Database.
22 April 2016: In a step toward determining what possible climate change actions are needed from the international shipping sector, the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has approved a mandatory system for collecting data on ships’ fuel consumption. Ships of 5,000 gross tonnage or more will have to record and report their consumption for every type of fuel they use to their flag State at the end of the calendar year. The flag State will determine whether the reporting meets requirements, issue a Statement of Compliance to the ship and transfer the data to the IMO Ship Fuel Consumption Database.
According to IMO, the MEPC’s decision is the first step in a three-part process to decide “whether any further measures are needed to enhance energy efficiency and address greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from international shipping.” The data collected will inform “an objective, transparent and inclusive policy debate in the MEPC” to support this decision making process. IMO notes that if the MEPC determines that further measures are needed, it will begin consideration of proposed policy options.
The mandatory data collection system was agreed to at MEPC’s 69th session, held from 18-22 April 2016, in London, UK. The system is spelled out in draft amendments to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), which will be put forward for adoption at the 70th MEPC session and possibly enter into force in 2018.
Welcoming the Paris Agreement on climate change and recognizing the IMO’s role in mitigating GHG emissions from shipping, member States discussed future GHG work at length at MEPC 69, and decided to hold a working group at MEPC 70 for an in-depth debate. IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim commented that “it has been very encouraging to see States which had previously found it difficult to reach binding agreement on climate change measures bring the spirit of the Paris Agreement to IMO this week.”
In opening the session, Lim told the Committee, “Having taken over the helm at IMO at the start of the year, I see the promotion of sustainable shipping and sustainable maritime development as one of the major priorities of my tenure.” He highlighted the “landmark achievements” of 2015, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement, underscoring “the contribution of shipping to the social, economic and environmental pillars of sustainable development.”
In a separate submission to the MEPC meeting, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) had proposed that IMO should develop an Intended IMO Determined Contribution for carbon dioxide (CO2) reduction on behalf of the sector, which would mirror the commitments or Intended National Determined Contributions (INDCs) that governments have made for their national economies, but from which international transport is currently excluded. According to ICS, the proposal was well received by a number of IMO member States and will be taken forward to MEPC 70 in October 2016. Various observers lamented what they described as the little progress the MEPC had made in curbing GHG emissions from international maritime transport.
Maritime transport contributes an estimated 2.8% of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and these emissions are expected to increase by 50-250% by 2050. However, the Paris Agreement, which was adopted by Parties to the UNFCCC in December 2015, does not cover international shipping emissions. Thus, actions under IMO to reduce emissions will be crucial to accomplishing both the Paris Agreement’s mitigation objectives and Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 13 (Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts).
Just prior to the opening of MEPC 69, IMO put out a call for hosts for five Maritime Technology Cooperation Centres (MTCCs), which will support an IMO-EU joint project on Capacity Building for Climate Change Mitigation in the Maritime Shipping Industry. The network of MTCCs, to be hosted in the five target regions of Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America and the Pacific, will assist developing countries in adopting and implementing energy-efficient technologies and operations and emissions reductions. The project is being supported by €10 million from the EU.
In addition to fuel consumption and the MTCCs, the Committee has been focusing on several other agenda items related to sustainable development and climate change, including: the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments (BWM Convention), which is close to entering into force; energy efficiency; fuel oil quality; designation of the Philippines Tubbataha Reefs as a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA); and establishing an effective date for the application of the Baltic Sea Special Area under MARPOL Annex IV (Prevention of Pollution by Sewage from Ships).
During MEPC 69, the Committee approved, in principle, the designation of the Tubbataha Reefs PSSA. The Philippines must now submit associated protective measures, including the area to be avoided, to the Sub-Committee on Navigation, Communication, and Search and Rescue (NCSR) for approval, followed by adoption by the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), meaning the PSSA could be designated at MEPC 71. The Committee also agreed that 2019 would be the effective date for new ships to comply with the Baltic Sea Special Area.
Energy efficiency measures adopted previously by the Organization, which are the only legally binding energy efficiency measures applicable across an entire global industry, will result in new ships built in 2025 being 30% more efficient than those built in 2013.
IMO is the UN specialized agency with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships. [IMO Press Release, 22 April 2016] [IMO Press Release, 15 April 2016] [MEPC 69 Information] [IMO Secretary-General Opening Address] [IISD RS Policy Update: Emissions from International Transport (AKA the Elephant in the Climate Change Policy Room)] [IISD RS Sources] [ICS Proposal] [ICS Press Release]