MEPC 81 - developments of significance

Published: 25 March 2024

The 81st meeting of the IMO’s Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC) made some progress on issues of significant importance to BIMCO members – including on mid-term measures for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the legal uncertainty regarding ship recycling and underwater radiated noise. Additionally, the Committee adopted a number of amendments to Conventions, approved a number of circulars and made significant progress on ballast water management issues. 

Progress on mid-term GHG measures 

After the agreement at the last MEPC on IMO’s strategy for reduction on GHG emissions from ships this session of MEPC was tasked to work on measures to implement the strategy’s levels of ambition. 

The work plan is laid out – with MEPC 81 and MEPC 82 the sessions where the detailed work takes place on development of the fuel standard and an economic instrument. MEPC 83 shall approve the amendments to MARPOL Annex VI which implements the ambitions, and an Extraordinary MEPC in the Autumn of 2025 shall adopt the measures. 

While the measures are being developed a parallel track is assessing the impact on states of the different proposed measures. This work is crucial and will be an important factor when the economic measure is decided – both in terms of the price on emissions and how proceeds shall be dispersed within industry and beyond. 

While IMO traditionally has been a technical forum where member states agree flag-neutral regulation of ships, dealing with climate change policy is different. The Paris Agreement under the UNFCCC plays a key role in guiding the political nature of the negotiations. Member states have agreed that whatever applies to ships will do so in line with IMO’s flag-neutral principle. Importantly, we must be cognisant to the impact on states and especially disproportionally negative impacts (NDI) on SIDS and LDCs (small island developing states, and least developed countries). This is where the economic instrument is central to the negotiations. 

The IMO member states are largely in agreement that GHG emissions from ships shall be regulated by a mandatory global fuel standard (GFS) which works on the principle of GHG intensity and sets forth a trajectory between now and 2050 to require the strategy’s ambitions are met. 

The economic instrument is a key element to both drive uptake of zero – or near zero GHG emission fuels by providing some kind of market equalisation and ensure that any NDI is dealt with by e.g. disbursement of funds to such impacted IMO member states. 

Naturally, such political negotiations are complicated and the business of member states rather than the shipping industry. We are thus trying to assist the delicate process by providing assessment of proposals’ impact on the shipping industry itself, rather than engaging in multi-lateral politics between nation states. 

At this meeting of the MEPC agreement was reached on an IMO net-zero framework outlining the structure of potential new MARPOL Annex VI regulations. Populating this framework is now the focus before MEPC meets next in the Autumn. 

Ship recycling 

At the meeting we, along with the co-sponsors of our written submission detailed here (BIMCO calls on IMO to solve legal inconsistencies in ship recycling conventions), made a strong request to the MEPC for more legal certainty on the application of the Hong Kong Convention before entry into force in June 2025. The specific request included that clarification and assurance is sought to ensure that shipowners and parties operating in compliance with the Hong Kong Convention will not be sanctioned as a violation of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal (the Basel Convention). The submission gained significant support from member states who requested the IMO Secretariat to continue and strengthen the cooperation with the Secretariat of the Basel Convention to cater for any information and assistance needed to ensure clear and robust implementation of the HKC.  It was also requested by the member states that the secretariat ensure the outcomes of MEPC are conveyed to the Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention to discuss further action. It was requested that the IMO Secretary General takes this forward. 

Whilst this is a significant and positive step, as pointed out by BIMCO and individual member states, particularly those states who are parties to the Basel Convention also need to bring the issue to the attention of relevant meetings under the Basel Convention. BIMCO will continue to work with such member states to highlight the inconsistencies and ensure clarity can be provided in the nearest future.  

Underwater Radiated Noise  

Underwater radiated noise will once again be a priority area for the MEPC with a dedicated agenda item added to the 82nd session to take place late in 2024. The MEPC endorsed the Action plan for the reduction of underwater noise from commercial shipping and noted the draft Guidance on the Experience Building Phase for the Revised URN Guidelines. Perhaps most importantly the committee highlighted the need to collect information on lessons learned and best practices concerning the application and uptake of the Revised URN Guidelines. With this in mind BIMCO members are kindly invited to complete a joint industry survey here Survey to confirm the uptake of Underwater Radiated Noise (URN) reduction measures.


To learn more about developments related to Ballast Water Management please visit Progress made on ballast water matters by MEPC 81.

To learn more about the adoptions and approvals made by the Committee please visit MEPC adopts and approves a raft of measures to protect the marine environment.


Members are invited to join us online to learn more about the outcome of the meeting on 3 April, 15+15 webinar: What happened at the latest IMO MEPC?

Aron Soerensen


Aron Soerensen

Head of Marine Environment

Copenhagen, Denmark