The International Maritime Organization (IMO), the United Nations agency charged with regulating international shipping, pushed forward its environmental agenda at the recent meeting of its Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC).
The committee clarified the ballast water management schedule, progressed greenhouse gases and air pollution issues, adopted new nitrous oxide emission control areas, designated a further Particularly Sensitive Sea Area, and agreed to work on implementation of the 0.50 percent global sulfur limit.
This work is helping IMO to fulfill its mandate to protect oceans and human health and to mitigate climate change, in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG 14 (oceans) and SDG 13 (climate change).
Ballast Water Management Convention
The MEPC agreed to a practical and pragmatic implementation schedule for ships to comply with the IMO Ballast Water Management (BWM) Convention, which aims to stem the transfer of potentially invasive species in ships’ ballast water. The treaty enters into force in September 2017. Currently, the BWM Convention has been ratified by 61 countries, representing over 68 percent of world merchant shipping tonnage.
From the date of entry into force, ships will be required to manage their ballast water to avoid the transfer of potentially invasive species. All ships will be required to have a ballast water management plan and keep a ballast water record book.
The subcommittee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR) was instructed to explore what actions may be taken to ensure consistent and effective implementation of the 0.50 percent mass of sulfur dioxide gases in the total mass of the emission (m/m) for fuel oil used by ships operating outside designated emission control areas.
Designation of Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park
The MEPC approved the final designation of the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, situated in the Sulu Sea, Philippines as a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA), following the adoption by the Maritime Safety Committee of a new Area to be avoided as an associated protective measure. The aim is to reduce the risk of ship groundings in the park, thereby preventing any resulting marine pollution and damage to the fragile coral reef ecosystem, as well as ensuring the sustainability of local artisanal fisheries. This brings the number of marine areas protected in this way to 15 (plus two extensions).
The MEPC approved the draft Code for the transport and handling of hazardous and noxious liquid substances in bulk on offshore support vessels for submission to the thirtieth IMO Assembly for adoption later this year.
On the sidelines of the MEPC meeting, leading shipowners and operators, classification societies, engine and technology builders and suppliers, big data providers, and oil companies signed up to a new Global Industry Alliance (GIA) to support shipping and its related industries make the transition towards a low carbon future.
Meanwhile, the European Union-funded Global MTCC Network (GMN) Project has successfully established maritime technology cooperation centers in its five target regions: Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America, and Pacific. With the goal to support the move towards low-carbon shipping, the MTTCs will focus on capacity-building efforts and implementing pilot projects involving fuel oil consumption data collection and developing low-carbon technologies.