Mandatory measures to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) from international shipping will be considered for adoption by the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), when it meets for its 62nd session from 11 to 15 July 2011 at IMO Headquarters in London.

Also high on the agenda will be the consideration, with a view to adoption, of amendments to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) to designate a new United States Caribbean sea area emission control area; to designate the Baltic Sea as a Special Area with respect to pollution by sewage from ships; and to adopt a revised Annex V related to control of garbage. The MEPC will also discuss issues relating to the implementation of the ship recycling and ballast water management conventions and consider the adoption of new guidelines on bio-fouling.

GHG amendments

At the request of a number of States party to MARPOL Annex VI Regulations for the prevention of air pollution from ships, the MEPC will be invited to consider proposed amendments to Annex VI to make mandatory the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI), for new ships, and the Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan (SEEMP). Both have already been disseminated via MEPC Circulars for voluntary use.

The EEDI is a non-prescriptive, performance-based mechanism that leaves the choice of technologies to use in a specific ship design to the industry. As long as the required energy-efficiency level is attained, ship designers and builders would be free to use the most cost-efficient solutions for the ship to comply with the regulations.

The SEEMP establishes a mechanism for operators to improve the energy efficiency of ships.

Market-based mechanisms

The Committee will also consider the report of an intersessional meeting of the Working Group on GHG Emissions from Ships, which met in March 2011 to consider suitable market-based measures (MBMs) to reduce GHG emissions from international shipping. This follows the submission to the MEPC of a comprehensive report by an Expert Group, which had carried out a feasibility study and impact assessment of several possible market-based measures submitted by Governments and observer organizations.

The intersessional group held an extensive exchange of views on issues related to, among other things, the desirability of MBMs providing: certainty in emission reductions or carbon price; revenues for mitigation, adaptation and capacity-building activities in developing countries; incentives for technical and operational improvements in shipping; and offsetting opportunities. The MEPC is expected to outline future work by the Organization on this matter, including, as identified by the Working Group, further in-depth examination of the impact of MBMs on developing countries.

The MBM proposals under review range from a contribution or levy on all CO2 emissions from international shipping or only from those ships not meeting the EEDI requirement, via emission trading systems, to schemes based on a ship's actual efficiency, both by design (EEDI) and operation (SEEMP).

Emission Control Area set for adoption

Following approval at its last session, the MEPC will consider, with a view to adoption, proposed draft MARPOL amendments to designate certain waters adjacent to the coasts of Puerto Rico (United States) and the Virgin Islands (United States) as an ECA for the control of emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOX), sulphur oxides (SOX), and particulate matter under MARPOL Annex VI Regulations for the prevention of air pollution from ships. Another proposed amendment will make old steamships exempt from North American ECA requirements.

Currently, there are two designated ECAs in force under Annex VI, the Baltic Sea area and the North Sea area, while a third, the North American ECA, which was adopted in March 2010 and will enter into force in August 2011, will take effect in August 2012.

Other Annex VI issues

The report of the Correspondence Group on the Assessment of Availability of Fuel Oil under MARPOL Annex VI will be considered by the MEPC. The report proposes a draft methodology framework to complete the review, which is required to be completed by 2018, to determine the availability of fuel oil to meet the global 0.5% sulphur limit specified in paragraph 1.3 of regulation 14 of MARPOL Annex VI.

The MEPC will also consider, for adoption, draft Guidelines addressing additional aspects to the NOx Technical Code 2008 with regard to particular requirements related to marine diesel engines fitted with selective catalytic reduction (SCR) systems and draft Guidelines for reception facilities under MARPOL Annex VI.

The MEPC will further consider approving, for future adoption, draft amendments to the NOx Technical Code 2008, relating to engines not pre-certified on a test bed and to NOx-reducing devices.

Annex IV (Sewage) Baltic Special Area set for adoption

The MEPC will consider, with a view to adoption, draft amendments to MARPOL Annex IV Prevention of pollution by sewage from ships to include the possibility of establishing "Special Areas" for the prevention of such pollution from passenger ships and to designate the Baltic Sea as a Special Area under this Annex. The draft amendments were approved at the last session.

Revised Annex V (garbage) set for adoption

The MEPC will consider, with a view to adoption, the revised Annex V Regulations for the prevention of pollution by garbage from ships, which has been developed following a comprehensive review of the annex to bring it up to date.

The main changes include the updating of definitions; the inclusion of a new requirement specifying that discharge of all garbage into the sea is prohibited, except as expressly provided otherwise (the discharges permitted in certain circumstances include food wastes, cargo residues and water used for washing deck and external surfaces containing cleaning agents or additives which are not harmful to the marine environment); expansion of the requirements for placards and garbage management plans to fixed and floating platforms engaged in exploration and exploitation of the sea-bed; and the proposed addition of discharge requirements covering animal carcasses.

Bio-fouling guidelines set for adoption

The MEPC will consider, for adoption, the first set of international recommendations to address biofouling of ships, to minimize the transfer of aquatic species, which were agreed in draft form by the Sub-Committee on Bulk Liquids and Gases (BLG).

The draft Guidelines for the control and management of ships' biofouling to minimize the transfer of invasive aquatic species will address the risks of introduction of invasive aquatic species through the adherence of sealife, such as algae and molluscs, to ships' hulls.

Research indicates that biofouling is a significant mechanism for species-transfer by vessels. A single fertile fouling organism has the potential to release many thousands of eggs, spores or larvae into the water with the capacity to found new populations of invasive species such as crabs, fish, sea stars, molluscs and plankton. Minimizing biofouling will significantly reduce the risk of transfer.

Recycling of ships

The intersessional Correspondence Group on Ship Recycling will report on its work to further develop the draft Guidelines for safe and environmentally sound ship recycling, Guidelines for the development of the ship recycling plan and Guidelines for the authorization of ship recycling facilities.

The guidelines are intended to assist ship recycling facilities to commence introducing voluntary improvements to meet the requirements of the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships, which was adopted in May 2009.

The Committee is expected to encourage Governments to ratify the Convention, which has been signed, subject to ratification, by five countries, and to review the programme for technical assistance aimed at supporting its early implementation.

PSSA for Strait of Bonifacio to be considered

The MEPC is expected to consider designating the Strait of Bonifacio as a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA), following its approval in principle at the last session and consideration of associated protective measures by the Sub-Committee on Safety of Navigation (NAV) in June 2011.

The MEPC will also consider a proposal by the Netherlands to designate the Saba Bank in the north-eastern part of the Caribbean islands as a PSSA.

Ballast water management systems to be approved

The MEPC will consider the reports of the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth meetings of the Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environment Protection (GESAMP) Ballast Water Working Group, which met in December 2010, February/March and May 2011, respectively, with a view to granting Basic Approval to seven and Final Approval to two ballast water management systems that make use of active substances.

The MEPC will also consider for adoption the draft Procedure for approving other methods of ballast water management in accordance with regulation B-3.7 of the Ballast Water Management Convention, which will open the door for new methods and concepts to prevent risks arising from the transfer of invasive species, provided that such methods will ensure at least the same level of protection of the environment set out in the convention and are approved in principle by the MEPC. As a part of the general effort towards effective implementation of the Ballast Water Management Convention, the MEPC is also expected to approve a draft Guidance document on scaling of ballast water management system. Both the draft Procedure and the draft Guidance document were developed by the BLG Sub-Committee at its fifteenth session.

The MEPC is expected to reiterate the need for countries to ratify the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments, 2004, to achieve its entry into force at the earliest opportunity. To date, 28 States, with an aggregate merchant shipping tonnage of 26.37 per cent of the world total, have ratified the Convention. The Convention will enter into force twelve months after the date on which not fewer than 30 States, the combined merchant fleets of which constitute not less than 35 percent of the gross tonnage of the world's merchant shipping, have become Parties to it.

Guidelines for the carriage of blends of petroleum oil and bio-fuels for approval

The MEPC is expected to consider for approval draft Guidelines for the carriage of blends of petroleum oil and bio-fuels, which set out set out carriage and discharge requirements for bio-fuel blends containing 75% or more of petroleum oil (they are subject to Annex I of MARPOL); bio-fuel blends containing more than 1% but less than 75% of petroleum oil (subject to Annex II of MARPOL); and bio-fuel blends containing 1% or less petroleum oil (also subject to Annex II of MARPOL).

Implementation of the OPRC Convention and OPRC-HNS Protocol

The MEPC is expected to consider the report of the twelfth meeting of the OPRC‑HNS Technical Group, which is being held this week, and to consider approving a number of draft guidance and manuals developed by the Technical Group.