IMO agreed draft amendments today (9 February) to MARPOL Annex VI that would prohibit the carriage of fuel oil “used or carried for use on board ships” when that fuel oil is not compliant with the 0.5% global sulphur limit that comes into force from 2020. But there will be an exception for ships fitted with an approved “equivalent arrangement” to meet the sulphur limit – such as an exhaust gas cleaning system (EGCS) or “scrubber”.
The agreement came at the end of this week’s fifth meeting of IMO’s Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR 5) but the clause’s final wording was yet to be finalised as the meeting came to a close. Some national delegations and the representative from the International Bunker Industry Association commented on the potential confusion for tankers, such as bunker barges, that carry fuel oil as cargo, rather than for their own use. Sub-committee chairman Sveinung Oftedal closed the discussion saying that IMO’s secretariat would “clean up” the text to resolve that point.
The proposed draft amendments will be passed to the Marine Environment Protection Committee’s 72nd meeting (MEPC 72) in April for its urgent consideration and, if the text is approved by that meeting, the guidelines could be adopted at MEPC 73 in October and could enter into force on 1 March 2020, two months after the 0.50% limit comes into effect. The sulphur limit within emission control areas remains at 0.1%.
It is Regulation 14.1.3 of Annex VI that sets out the 0.50% regulation and PPR 5’s Working Group on Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships had been tasked with developing guidelines for consistent implementation of that regulation. In its report to the sub-committee, the working group presented draft guidelines and proposed that they be developed further at an intercessional meeting for finalisation at PPR 6 and approval by MEPC 74 in the first half of 2019.
Some delegations suggested that this would be too late for the guidelines to have any practical value and asked that the draft guidelines go direct to MEPC 73 instead of returning to PPR. IMO’s assistant secretary-general, Dr Stefan Micallef – appointed at the start of this year – advised that a clause in IMO’s guidelines covering how the MEPC and its subsidiary bodies, such as PPR, work allows that “if circumstances and time constraints so dictate, [working groups] may submit their reports direct to committees if authorised to do so by the parent body.”
As a result, and subject to approval by MEPC 72, the draft guidelines will, unusually, be sent direct to MEPC 73 for review and adoption.