Govts Urged to Uniform Procedures ahead of Low Sulphur Switch

Pressing challenges associated with the need for ships trading to Emission Control Areas, in North America and Europe, to switch to low sulphur fuel, and the serious implementation problems that will be created by the eventual entry into force of the IMO Ballast Water Management (BWM) Convention, were a hot topic at the last week’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) in Limassol, Cyprus.

Even though the ICS underlined the shipping industry’s commitment to full compliance with the IMO sulphur ECA requirements from January 2015, information collected by ICS members suggests that many governments are not ready to implement the requirements in a uniform manner, in order to ensure the prevention of market distortion.

In particular, ICS members identified an urgent need for the Paris MOU on Port State Control – in co-operation with the European Commission and the United States – to finalise harmonised procedures before implementation begins.

It was also agreed that port states need to resolve detailed implementation questions on the use of alternative compliance mechanisms for those companies that have chosen to invest in them, as permitted by the IMO MARPOL Convention.

“The shipping industry is investing billions of dollars in order to ensure compliance. The huge costs involved could have a profound impact on the future structure of the entire shipping industry and the movement of international trade,” said ICS Chairman Masamichi Morooka.

“It is therefore incumbent on governments to get the details of implementation right as we enter this brave new world in which fuel costs for many ships will increase overnight by 50% or more. We only have six months to go and we think it vital that governments clarify all of the details of ECA implementation as soon as possible.”

In addition, ICS members considered the deep flaws in the IMO Ballast Water Management Convention (adopted in 2004 when the technology required to comply had not been widely tested or proven commercially) and possible solutions to these issues.

It is apparent that there is now a greater understanding of these problems amongst IMO Member States which for many seems to be the primary issue impeding ratification, according to ICS.

These obstacles include the lack of robustness of the current type-approval process for the very expensive new treatment systems that will be required, doubts about the procedures to be followed during Port State Control, and the need to provide confidence to shipowners that have already installed the new equipment (or are about to do so) that they will be regarded by the authorities as compliant.

ICS supports the objectives of the Convention, “However,” explained Mr Morooka “unless these problems are resolved immediately at IMO there is a considerable risk that the regime will not be fit for purpose.”

ICS voiced concern that port state sanctions could impact unfairly on shipowners who, in good faith, have fitted type-approved equipment, only to be told subsequently that it falls short of the required standard.

At the next meeting of the IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 67) in October 2014, governments need to take what may be the final opportunity to act by agreeing some relatively simple changes to how the Convention will be implemented.

“Time is rapidly running out,” said Mr Morooka.

The ICS AGM agreed in principle to the text of a detailed industry submission that will be made to MEPC 67. This submission will suggest solutions to these complex problems in the form of a draft MEPC Resolution that could be adopted by IMO Member States before the Convention enters into force. This final industry submission will be made in the next few weeks.

When speaking about the lessons learned with respect to the development of regulations, Mr Morooka explained: “Environmental protection is of the utmost importance, and ICS does not question the objectives or good intentions that are usually behind most government proposals. But in the future we believe there needs to be far more emphasis on proper regulatory impact assessments which also take full account of the economic sustainability of shipping.

More attention also needs to be given by IMO Member States to the practicality and timescale allowed for implementation of new regulations. This should happen before the rules are adopted, not several years later when it may be too late.”

ICS, June 19, 2014

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