Shaping a Sustainable Future: MEPC 80 to Unveil Ambitious Measures for Reducing Shipping Emissions


Posted on Jul 03, 2023 at 09:07 AM

The International Maritime Organisation's (IMO) Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) is gearing up for its highly anticipated 80th session scheduled to take place from 3rd to 7th July 2023.

This session holds immense significance for the marine industry as the MEPC is expected to adopt an updated greenhouse gas (GHG) Strategy, outlining ambitious measures to reduce shipping emissions and pave the way towards a sustainable future.


IMO MEPC 80: What to Expect

The updated IMO GHG Strategy will lay out clear objectives, as well as technical and financial actions, with the ultimate goal of eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from global shipping. The MEPC's agenda for the 80th session covers a wide range of topics aimed at addressing the challenges posed by climate change and promoting sustainable practices within the maritime sector.


1. Tackling Climate Change: Implementing the Updated IMO GHG Strategy

Recognizing the urgency of the climate crisis, the IMO will extend support to developing nations, especially Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and Least Developed Countries (LDCs), to facilitate their transition towards low-carbon shipping while ensuring equitable development opportunities. The MEPC will focus on accelerating the safety regulatory framework for secure marine fuel management on ships.

Furthermore, mid-term actions will be explored, which may include the implementation of potential technical and financial measures to achieve the goals outlined in the updated plan.

Additionally, guidelines for assessing Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions have been established, providing a framework for evaluating the environmental impact of different marine fuels.


2. Ships' Energy Efficiency: Enhancing Sustainability

The committee will review the Data Collection System (DCS) under the MARPOL Annex VI, which tracks ship fuel oil consumption. This review will contribute to ongoing efforts to improve ships' energy efficiency.

The MEPC will also consider the revision of the Carbon Intensity Indicator (CII) regulations and recommendations, with a target date of January 1, 2026, to ensure more effective measures for reducing emissions. These measures will play a crucial role in curbing the carbon footprint of the shipping industry.


3. Ratification of Ballast Water Management (BWM) Convention Amendments and Review Plan

During MEPC 80, discussions will revolve around various aspects of the BWM Convention's implementation. This includes providing guidance on the application of the convention to ships operating in problematic water quality, addressing issues related to ballast water recording, reporting, and potential modifications to the existing guidelines.

The MEPC will also consider proposals for approving alterations to BWM systems that have already received type approval, as well as establishing a protocol for inspecting monitoring equipment for ballast water compliance.

Furthermore, a unified interpretation of the International Ballast Water Management Certificate (IBWMC) form and BWM Convention regulations for ship construction date compliance will be addressed. The approval of ballast water management systems utilizing Active Substances will be based on the recommendations of the 43rd meeting of the GESAMP Ballast Water Working Group.


4. Revisions to the Biofouling Management Guidelines

To curb the spread of invasive aquatic species, the MEPC is expected to approve updated guidelines for the control and management of ships' biofouling. These guidelines will play a crucial role in reducing the environmental impact caused by the transfer of invasive species through biofouling.


5. Establishment of Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas (PSSAs)

To protect cetaceans from the adverse effects of shipping activities, the MEPC will declare a specific sensitive sea area in the North-Western Mediterranean Sea (NW Med PSSA). This designation aims to mitigate the impact on marine life and preserve the biodiversity of the region.


6. Updated Rules for Underwater Noise

The MEPC will review and approve draft amended guidelines for reducing underwater noise on commercial ships, developed by the Sub-Committee on Ship Design and Construction (SDC 9). These guidelines will provide shipowners with technological knowledge, standards, and templates for managing underwater radio frequency noise.


7. Dealing with Maritime Litter

Addressing the issue of plastic pollution, the MEPC will support the efforts of the Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR) in tackling plastic pellet pollution threats. Approval of draft MARPOL changes that require reporting of missing containers is also expected during this session.

The MEPC will review proposed modifications to MARPOL Protocol I for the reporting process of missing goods containers.


8. Ship-to-Ship Transfer: Environmental Risks and Control Regimes

The committee will engage in a comprehensive discussion on ship-to-ship transfers, focusing on the environmental risks involved and the global marine pollution control regimes. The aim is to enhance safety measures and mitigate potential environmental hazards associated with such operations.


9. Effective Date for the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden Special Zones

During MEPC 80, the committee will determine the effective date for the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden Special Zones under MARPOL Annexes I and V. This decision will be based on the availability of reception facilities in the designated areas.


10. Additional Issues from the PPR Subcommittee

The MEPC will address several additional issues brought forward by the PPR Subcommittee, including the adoption of guidelines for Hazardous Material Inventory Development due to Anti-fouling Systems (AFS) Convention changes. The committee will endorse the final version of the Operational Guide on the Response to Spills of Hazardous and Noxious Substances (HNS) in maritime events, providing valuable guidance to first responders and decision-makers.

Moreover, the MEPC will embrace the 2023 Recommendations for Thermal Waste Treatment Equipment and approve MARPOL Annex VI rule changes for marine diesel engines, replacing steam systems. Unified interpretation of MARPOL Annex VI Regulations 18.5 and 18.6 will also be approved, along with the proposed scope for volatile organic compound (VOC) reduction by the PPR Sub-Committee.


In conclusion,

The upcoming MEPC 80 session of the IMO holds immense promise for shaping a sustainable future for the shipping industry. Through ambitious measures and strategic discussions, the committee aims to tackle climate change, enhance the energy efficiency, manage ballast water effectively, reduce biofouling, protect sensitive sea areas, and address various other environmental challenges.

By prioritising sustainability and adopting comprehensive guidelines and regulations, the MEPC aims to propel the shipping industry towards a greener and more sustainable future.


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