IMO MEPC 68 Adopts Environmental Provisions of Polar Code
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MEPC members also heard an update of the status of the UNFCCC negotiations.

A proposal by the Marshall Islands that MEPC set a global target for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from international shipping was rejected by the Committee, which opted to possibly address the issue at a future session.

The Committee did take up energy-efficiency requirements, adopting amendments to the 2014 guidelines on survey and certification of the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) and the 2013 interim guidelines for determining minimum propulsion power and for the level one minimum power lines assessment for bulk carriers and tankers.

IMO15 May 2015: The 68th Session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has adopted the environmental part of the Polar Code, which is the international code of safety for ships operating in waters surrounding the Earth’s poles. MEPC also adopted the relevant amendments under the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) to make the Code mandatory.

The agreed provisions prohibit the discharge into the sea of sewage (unless performed in line with MARPOL Annex IV and requirements in the Polar Code), noxious liquid substances or mixtures containing such substances, and oil or oily mixtures; require that fuel tanks be separated from the outer shell; and restrict garbage discharge except when permitted in accordance with MARPOL Annex V and requirements in the Polar Code.

The Polar Code, which covers the full range of design, construction, equipment, operations, training, search and rescue and environmental protection matters relevant to ships operating in polar waters, is expected to enter into force in 2017 and will apply to all ships constructed on or after 1 January 2017. Older ships will have until the first intermediate or renewal survey to meet the relevant requirements.

During the weeklong meeting, MEPC also discussed the implementation of the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments (BWM) Convention, which aims to prevent the introduction of invasive aquatic species into their non-native marine ecosystems. During his address to MEPC 68, IMO Secretary-General Koji Sekimizu strongly urged States to ratify the Convention, whose Parties do not yet represent the portion of the world’s merchant shipping tonnage necessary for the instrument to enter into force.

MEPC members also heard an update of the status of the UNFCCC negotiations. A proposal by the Marshall Islands that MEPC set a global target for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from international shipping was rejected by the Committee, which opted to possibly address the issue at a future session. The Committee did take up energy-efficiency requirements, adopting amendments to the 2014 guidelines on survey and certification of the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) and the 2013 interim guidelines for determining minimum propulsion power and for the level one minimum power lines assessment for bulk carriers and tankers.

Revisions to air pollution guidance and requirements were also approved. The amendments relate to carbon dioxide (CO2) and sulphur dioxide (SO2) emission testing for exhaust gas, testing of gas-fueled engines and dual fuel engines for nitrogen oxides (NOx) levels, and particular requirements related to marine diesel engines fitted with Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) Systems.

A resolution agreed by MEPC during the meeting extends the eastern limit of the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA) to include the southwest part of the Coral Sea. According to IMO, this remote ocean ecosystem provides refuge to a wide range of threatened, migratory and commercially valuable species.

During the meeting, which was held 11-15 May 2015 in London, UK and chaired by Arsenio Dominguez (Panama), MEPC also decided: on the definition of black carbon; on hazardous materials guidelines for the ship recycling convention; to re-establish the fuel oil quality correspondence group; and to initiate a sulphur review in 2015. [IMO Press Release, 17 April 2015] [IMO Press Release, 18 May 2015] [IMO Press Release, 19 May 2015] [IMO Secretary-General Remarks]


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