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IMO Environment Meeting Approves Revised Regulations on Ship Emissions, Next Steps for GHG Reduction

The Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has approved proposed amendments to the MARPOL (“Marine Pollution”)—the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution From Ships—Annex VI regulations that would result in reduced emissions from ships.

The main changes are: a progressive reduction in sulfur oxide (SOx) emissions, with the global sulfur cap reduced initially to 3.50% (35,000 ppm) from the current 4.50% (45,000 ppm), effective 1 January 2012; then progressively to 0.50% (5,000 ppm), effective 1 January 2020, subject to a feasibility review to be completed no later than 2018. Should the 2018 review reach a negative conclusion, the effective date would default to 1 January 2025.

The limits applicable in Sulfur Emission Control Areas (SECAs) would be reduced to 1.00% (10,000 ppm), beginning on 1 March 2010 (from the current 1.50%); being further reduced to 0.10% (1,000 ppm), effective from 1 January 2015. In the current Annex VI, there are two SECAs designated: the Baltic Sea and the North Sea area, which also includes the English Channel.

NOx. The committee also agreed to progressive reductions in NOx emissions from marine engines. The amendments confirm a proposed three-tier structure for new engines, which would set progressively tighter nitrogen oxide emission standards for new engines depending on the date of their installation.

  • Tier I applies to a diesel engine which is installed on a ship constructed on or after 1 January 2000 and prior to 1 January 2011 and represents the 17 g/kW standard stipulated in the existing Annex VI.

  • For Tier II, NOx emission levels for a diesel engine which is installed on a ship constructed on or after 1 January 2011 would be reduced to 14.4 g/kWh.

  • For Tier III, NOx emission levels for a diesel engine which is installed on a ship constructed on or after 1 January 2016 would be reduced to 3.4 g/kWh, when the ship is operating in a designated Emission Control Area. Outside a designated Emission Control Area, Tier II limits apply.

  • The MEPC agreed to a NOx emission limit of 17.0 g/kW for a diesel engine with a power output of more than 5,000 kW and a displacement per cylinder at, or above, 90 litres installed on a ship constructed on or after 1 January 1990 but prior to 1 January 2000.

The revisions will allow for an Emission Control Area to be designated for SOx and particulate matter, or NOx, or all three types of emissions from ships, subject to a proposal from a Party or Parties to the Annex which would be considered for adoption by the Organization, if supported by a demonstrated need to prevent, reduce and control one or all three of those emissions from ships.

The proposed draft amendments to Annex VI and the NOx Technical Code will now be submitted to MEPC 58 (which meets from 6 to 10 October 2008) for adoption, in accordance with an agreed timetable. This would see the revised Annex VI enter into force in 2010.

MARPOL Annex VI Regulations for the Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships entered into force in May 2005 and has, so far, been ratified by 49 countries, representing approximately 74.77% of the gross tonnage of the world’s merchant shipping fleet.

The MEPC also instructed the IMO Secretariat to invite the International Standardization Organization (ISO) to consider the development of a fuel oil specification addressing air quality, ship safety, engine performance and crew health, with recommendations for future consideration by IMO and, if feasible, to report back to the Committee at its 58th session in October.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions. The MEPC also endorsed a proposal from the Secretary-General to expedite the work on GHG emissions, in particular as regards developing the CO2 Emission Indexing Scheme and the CO2 Emission baseline(s).

The MEPC agreed that a coherent and comprehensive future IMO regulatory framework on GHG Emissions from ships should be:

  • Effective in contributing to the reduction of total global greenhouse gas emissions;

  • Binding and equally applicable to all flag states in order to avoid evasion;

  • Cost-effective;

  • Able to limit, or at least effectively minimize, competitive distortion;

  • Based on sustainable environmental development without penalizing global trade and growth;

  • Based on a goal-based approach and not prescribe specific methods;

  • Supportive of promoting and facilitating technical innovation and R&D in the entire shipping sector;

  • Accommodating to leading technologies in the field of energy efficiency; and

  • Practical, transparent, fraud free and easy to administer.

The Working Group on GHG Emissions from Ships has developed next steps covering the development of short-term and long-term measures to address CO2 emissions from ships. The next steps were approved by the MEPC.

Short-term measures include a proposal to establish a global levy scheme on marine bunker fuel to achieve GHG emission reductions. Under this scheme, all ships engaged in international voyages would be subjected to a bunker levy established at a given cost level per ton of fuel bunkered. With such a scheme in place, a baseline of fuel used and CO2 emissions would be obtained. The prospect of a global levy/credits scheme contributing to a GHG emissions reduction from ships was found promising, although it was noted that several aspects would need to be clarified and worked on, including:

  • The practical implementation of a global levy scheme;

  • Who would collect the levies and how;

  • How would the revenues be distributed;

  • The relation with existing environmental levies and tax regimes in general;

  • would there be enough Clean Development Measures to buy with the credits; and

  • The potential for a modal shift in transport at the regional level.

Other short-term measures listed for further consideration include:

  • Improvement of specific fuel consumption;

  • Energy Efficiency Design and Management Plan/Using a Test Mode for estimating CO2-index of new-build ships;

  • Onshore power supply;

  • Use of wind power;

  • Voluntary/mandatory requirements to report CO2 index values, information exchange/outreach and rating performance of ships and operators;

  • Strict limitations on leakage rates of refrigerant gases;

  • Vessel speed reductions; and

  • Measures to improve traffic control, fleet management, cargo handling operations and energy efficiency.

Some of the measures could lead to immediate reduction of CO2 emissions and should be implemented as soon as possible. The MEPC endorsed the view of the Working Group that a resolution (to be adopted by the MEPC and/or Assembly), urging the shipping industry and other related entities to do so, should be developed at an intersessional meeting of the GHG Working Group to be held in Oslo, Norway, from 23 to 27 June 2008.

The longer-term measures identified by the Working Group and approved by the Committee for further development include:

  • Technical measures for ship design;

  • Use of alternative fuels;

  • A CO2-Design Index for new ships;

  • External verification scheme for CO2 operational index;

  • Unitary CO2 operational index limit, combined with penalty for non-compliance;

  • Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) and/or Clean Development Mechanism (CDM); and

  • Inclusion of mandatory CO2 element in port infrastructure charging.

Other measures to reduce GHG emissions from ships will be considered by the Intersessional Correspondence Group on Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Ships, which was re-established to report to MEPC 58.


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