Dolphin jumping near tanker ship at sunset

What happened at MEPC 79?

Published: 19 December 2022

The 79th meeting of the IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) took place from 12 to 16 December. Key decisions and discussions are highlighted.

Topics considered included greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution, protection of marine cetaceans.

Working group on reduction of GHG emissions from ships continues to look at future ambitions

Work is ongoing on revision of the initial strategy on reduction of GHG emissions from ships. The initial strategy was adopted back in 2018 and the ambitions were modest at that time – 50% reduction by 2050 compared to 2008. Since then, climate science has developed, as has the realised heating of the planet. There is thus an increasingly louder call for strengthened ambition in the IMO final strategy to be adopted at the next MEPC meeting towards the middle of 2023.

BIMCO has already agreed to join the call for a net zero carbon (by which we mean CO2 equivalent emissions) shipping industry by 2050. The same is sounding from many IMO member states. Still, there is also a group of IMO member states who wishes to retain the original ambitions from the initial strategy.

There is thus not yet a consensus on what the final strategy should aim at, but there is convergence towards stronger ambitions and also to new measures – combining technical elements as well as economic instruments. In plain language – this would be some sort of a Fuel GHG intensity standard combined with a levy. This would take care of funding important issues such as necessary assistance to small island developing states (SIDS) and least developed countries (LDCs). Details of such a combined measure are still on the conceptual state, but nonetheless this is the direction IMO is moving in.

Work on the revised strategy will continue at two intersessional working group sessions ahead of the MEPC 80 in early 2023. BIMCO will participate actively in this work aiming at having measures adopted which are suitable for application commercially in the industry.

Protecting cetaceans in the Mediterranean Sea

The North-Western part of the Mediterranean Sea has, in principle, been designated as a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA). It aims to protect marine cetaceans that are breeding and feeding in the PSSA. The PSSA covers waters off the coastlines of France, Italy, Monaco and Spain.

A PSSA has associated measures aimed at ships and coastal states and in this case they are voluntary. The proposed measures recommend that ships should navigate with caution at 10 to 13 knots, keep lookout for whales and maintain a safe distance and report when in the presence of cetaceans.

MEPC 79 decision of the North-Western Mediterranean Sea as a PSSA was made subject to the further development and approval of the proposed associative protective measures. The measures will be discussed further at the next meeting of the Sub-Committee on Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue (NCSR) and it is expected that the final adoption of the PSSA will take place during MEPC 80.

Licensing schemes for bunker suppliers

MEPC 79 considered the two submissions by BIMCO, in cooperation with other industry organisations, outlining information concerning sulphur compliance and the broad industry support for adoption of bunker licensing schemes, and encouraged countries to make use of the revised Guidance for best practice for Member State/coastal State, which include a template for a licence for fuel oil suppliers.

Synthetic drop-in fuels

MEPC 79 approved an updated unified interpretation to harmonize the permission to use synthetic drop-in fuels in accordance with MARPOL Annex VI, equating the requirements for blending with synthetic fuels with the blending with biofuels.

New Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan (SEEMP) Part III is required in case of changing ISM company or Flag State

MEPC 79 approved an updated unified interpretation concerning a ship changing ISM company, or changing from one Administration to another, stipulating that a new SEEMP III will be required as well as a new three-year implementation plan documenting how the required annual operational CII is intended to be achieved.

Consistency on multiple load lines in relation to EEDI, EEXI and CII

MEPC 79 adopted the 2022 Guidelines on the method of calculation of the attained Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) for new ships, ensuring consistency between how ships with multiple load line certificates or ships with a load line certificate containing multiple summer load lines is treated. The maximum summer draught should be used to calculate and verify the required and attained EEDI. For ships that may have previously received multiple EEDI assessments for several deadweights that correspond to multiple load lines, all those EEDI assessments should remain valid.

Amendments to Mandatory Instruments

MEPC 79 adopted the following amendments- all of which will enter into force on 1 May 2024

  • Amendments to MARPOL Annexes I, II and IV concerning regional reception facilities within Arctic waters and Form of IOPP Certificate and Supplements. The amendments will enter into force on 1 May 2024.
  • Amendments to MARPOL Annex V concerning regional reception facilities within Arctic waters and Garbage Record Book.
  • Amendments to MARPOL Annex VI were adopted which establishes a Mediterranean Sea Emission Control Area (ECA) for Sulphur Oxides (SOx) and Particulate Matter. A limit on the sulphur content in fuel oil used onboard ships operating within the Mediterranean SOx ECA will be 0.10% m/m.
  • Amendments to MARPOL Annex VI concerning regional reception facilities within Arctic waters, information to be included in the Bunker Delivery Note (BDN) and information to be submitted to the IMO Ship Fuel Oil Consumption Database were adopted. This amendment requires the fuel supplier to always include a 70 deg C Flashpoint go/no-go test and/or test and document the actual flashpoint of the fuel in case no-go on the 70 deg C test. This is particularly challenging and cumbersome when the fuel is a low-flashpoint fuel such as Methanol. An amendment to MARPOL Annex VI, reg 18.4 is needed to exempt all low-flashpoint from the BDN requirement as is the case presently for gaseous fuels.
Christian Baekmark Schiolborg


Christian Baekmark Schiolborg

Manager, Marine Environment

Copenhagen, Denmark