MEPC 70: IMO Under Pressure to Act on Emissions


Published Oct 13, 2016 7:44 PM by The Maritime Executive

A range of shipping organizations are putting pressure on IMO to act on air emissions ahead of the Marine Environmental Committee Meeting (MEPC 70) to be held October 24–28. The meeting is scheduled to discuss policy measures for the shipping sector in terms of CO2 reduction and whether or not to postpone the global 0.5 percent sulfur cap planned for 2020.

Sulfur Cap Readiness

The European Port group ESPO believes that the deadline of 2020 for introducing a global cap of 0.5 percent sulfur content in marine fuels must be maintained to align the IMO timing with the E.U.’s Sulfur Directive timing. This would ensure a level playing field between the E.U. and its neighboring countries, says ESPO. 

Limiting sulfur exhaust emissions can have a major impact on local air quality and would mean a big step forward for the maritime and port industry, says ESPO.  By maintaining 2020, the IMO can show that an ambitious greening agenda is possible at a global level.

The Exhaust Gas Cleaning Systems Association says the marine industry has had ample time to get ready. “More than 10 years in fact, as IMO adopted the schedule for a global reduction in fuel sulfur down to 0.5 percent in 2008, with the regulation entering into force in 2010 as part of the revised MARPOL Annex VI,” says director Don Gregory.

“The work on emissions compliance technologies as an alternative to traditional marine fuel oils started in the late 1990's, and now exhaust gas scrubbers are one of the principal alternative options for ship operators. There has been pretty much 20 years of preparation.”

Industry insiders believe that one or more submissions to IMO will confirm that fuel availability will not be an issue, and while there may be papers highlighting "stresses" that must be considered, there could be well be significant upsides for shipping and its suppliers if a positive approach is taken, says Gregory.

“History has shown that supply and price changes are absorbed and markets react if forced. Recent examples include the E.U.'s Directive for 0.1 percent sulfur fuel for power plants, and the requirement for automotive ultralow sulfur diesel and gasoline. In all cases industry first cries wolf, then complies with minimal supply disruptions.

“A delay to 2025 will do nothing to reduce impact of the entry into force of the 0.5 percent fuel sulfur limit. Either date, 2020 or 2025, will not accelerate or incentivize early investment. Refiners, seriously worried about early investments resulting in mistaken decisions and stranded investment, will react after the fact.”

Paris Agreement Expectations

The Sustainable Shipping Initiative (SSI) has set out what it believes are the required immediate actions for creating a framework to reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions from shipping. The organization says all organizations and member states represented at MEPC must demonstrate a commitment to the Paris Agreement’s objective of keeping global warming below two degrees.  This can be achieved by adopting a detailed IMO roadmap for establishing shipping’s ‘fair share’ of global emission reductions to be decided on at MEPC 70.
The SSI believes that the baseline for setting emissions reduction targets should be founded upon data from the IMO’s third GHG study (2014), and not linked to ongoing data collection and analysis from a global Measuring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) scheme, which would only delay the urgent action that is required.

The E.U.’s Emission Trading Scheme

On Thursday, the Industry Committee of the European Parliament adopted its report on the E.U.’s emissions trading scheme (ETS) and stressed that the climate impact of shipping should be regulated at U.N. level. The Committee therefore rejected the inclusion of shipping in the E.U. ETS. 

Since the shipping industry is truly global, regional rules in the E.U. would be a setback for the competitiveness of Danish and European shipowners, says Conservative Member of the European Parliament Industry Committee, Bendt Bendtsen. “The vote reflects that a regional approach would not be sustainable for shipping, and that in order to achieve significant CO2 reductions, we have to look beyond our borders. This of course also means that the eyes of the European Parliament are now set on the IMO.”

“We are satisfied that a large majority of politicians in the Committee supported that shipping should be regulated in the U.N. The Industry Committee stressed that the E.U. will hold the IMO accountable on CO2, which the Danish Shipowners’ Association fully supports,” says Simon C. Bergulf, Director E.U. Affairs of the Danish Shipowners’ Association.

The vote in the Industry Committee is the first step in the European Parliament’s handling of the case. The next step is the Environment Committee’s opinion in December.