Early last month, the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) passed measures at London that formalise the first ever mandatory GHG reduction regime for shipping. The amendments to MARPOL Annex VI Regulations for the prevention of air pollution from ships add a new chapter 4 to Annex VI on Regulations on energy efficiency for ships to make mandatory the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) - for new ships- and the Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan (SEEMP) for all ships. Other amendments cover certification and survey issues in connection. The regulations are expected to come into force on 1 January 2013 and will cover all ships of 400GRT and above, with a waiver given to new ships under construction under certain conditions.
The new chapter includes the promotion of technical co-operation and transfer of technology in matters related to energy efficiency of ships. Flexibility has also been given to owners to decide which energy-efficient system is best for them. 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, the IMO says. The SEEMP, on the other hand, establishes a mechanism for operators to improve the energy efficiency of ships.
Environmental groups are cautiously optimistic about the upcoming regulations, although some have expressed concern about possible loopholes and suspicion that governments may not properly enforce the new laws. Some like Chris Carroll of 'Seas at Risk' fear that the IMO has not thought hard enough about enforcement issues in general and so an opportunity has been missed. A 'closed' system is required, they say, that would allow for full waste accounting and expose illegal dumping. Nevertheless, the regulations are a welcome step. Says Jeroen Dagevos of the North Sea Foundation, a group represented at the IMO, “After years of campaigning for international action on ship waste dumping we applaud the IMO for adopting stronger regulations. Although we are concerned that the current enforcement and compliance system is not working, these revisions are a big step towards ending the problem of ship waste dumping.”
IMO Secretary-General Efthimios E. Mitropoulos was upbeat at the end of the London session. “Although not by consensus – which of course would be the ideal outcome – the Committee has now adopted amendments to MARPOL Annex VI introducing mandatory technical and operational measures for the energy efficiency of ships. Let us hope that the work to follow on these issues will enable all Members to build the consensus that evaded the Committee this time,” he said.