MEPC 74 strengthens efficiency targets

MEPC 74 strengthens efficiency targets
MEPC 74 approved various guidance and guidelines to support the implementation of the sulphur 2020 limit from January 1, 2020. Image courtesy of the IMO

The IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) held its 74th meeting last week. The session approved amendments to strengthen existing mandatory requirements for new ships to be more energy efficient. This agreement covers seven ship types in total for long-term decarbonisation.

The accelerated targets for containers, general cargo ships, hybrid diesel-electric cruise ships, and LPG and LNG carriers cover approximately 30 per cent of ships and around 40 per cent of CO2 emitted from ships subject to energy efficiency regulations. This measure could reduce CO2 emissions by about 750 million tonnes of CO2 cumulatively from 2022 to 2050, according to an analysis by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT).  This is equal to around 2 per cent of all emissions from international shipping over that time period and around one year’s worth of emissions in 2015.

IMO will consider additional requirements for new ships after 2025 and efficiency requirements for in-use vessels at its next meeting in April 2020. The improved standards were made within the framework of the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) and bring forward the entry into effect date of phase 3 to 2022, from 2025. This means that new ships built from that date must be significantly more energy efficient than the baseline.

“IMO’s decision to move up and tighten energy efficiency targets for some new ships is a modest but necessary step to combat climate change. Next, IMO will consider energy efficiency measures for existing ships to reduce emissions in the near-term,” said Dan Rutherford, ICCT’s marine program director.

“IMO’s move shows that further efficiency improvements are still possible for fossil fuelled ships. Future standards should promote new technologies like wind assist and eventually zero emission fuels like hydrogen and electricity,” stated Bryan Comer, senior researcher in ICCT’s marine program.

However, some NGOs argued that the agreed reduction rate from 2022, while bringing an end to the least efficient ships being built, is already being beaten by the most efficient ships built currently, and that much deeper reduction targets could have been set.

“Following four years of negotiations and countless meetings, IMO eventually admitted what was already evident for the scientific and environmental community: that it is not prepared to adopt rules that encourage technological innovation with EEDI regulation. IMO’s comfort zone is rather to timidly follow what the market has already delivered without regulation, and then take credit for it,” stated Faig Abbasov, shipping policy manager at Transport & Environment.

“The IMO this week recognised the need to address the climate impacts of shipping fuels — but it missed an opportunity by not focusing on policies that will drive zero-emissions fuels and vessels. At the next set of talks in November, countries in the IMO need to prioritise policies that drive investment in future-proof sustainable fuel supply chains,” said Aoife O’Leary, senior legal manager, Environmental Defense Fund.

Speed reductions

Discussions were also held on the development of speed reductions as a short-term measure to cutting CO2 emissions but no concrete plans were agreed going forward.  No agreement could be found on which of the 15 candidate measures to discuss first, with Saudi Arabia, Brazil, and the US objecting even to the word “prioritisation”.

“Instead of discussing substance, countries discussed process,” stated Faig Abassov.

Speed reduction remains on the table, despite fears by its proponents that it could be removed from the agenda at an early stage. The working group has inserted speed reduction and speed optimisation into one of three key packages to be worked on further at the next GHG working group in November.

The GHG working group published a timetable showing that short-term CO2 cuts could still be achieved before 2023, as required in the Initial Strategy. However delaying actions from the above countries this week have put this deadline at risk.

The governments of France and Greece submitted official speed reduction proposals, and Malta has supported the idea from the floor. Japan and Denmark have also submitted proposals for tougher operational efficiency standards, which would indirectly result in lots of ships slowing down to meet them.

Over 100 shipping CEOs signed a joint letter to governments at IMO calling for global speed limits at sea, ahead of the latest round of talks. Signatories include those from Euronav, Diana Shipping, Navios Maritime Holdings, Safe Bulkers, Star Bulk, DYNAGAS, Tsakos Shipping and many more.

2020 sulphur cap

MEPC 74 also approved a number of guidelines, guidance documents and MEPC Circulars related to the IMO’s 2020 global 0.5 per cent sulphur cap. Areas covered include the impact the sulphur cap will have on fuel and machinery systems due to new fuel blends, verification issues and control mechanism and actions, including port State control and samples of fuel oil used onboard; a standard reporting format for fuel oil non-availability (fuel oil non-availability report (FONAR); and possible safety implications relating to fuel oils meeting the 0.5 per cent sulphur limit. Read more on this here.

Cooperation between ships and ports

MEPC 74 also adopted a resolution encouraging cooperation with ports to reduce emissions from shipping. This could include regulatory, technical, operational and economic actions, such as the provision of: Onshore Power Supply (preferably from renewable sources); safe and efficient bunkering of alternative low-carbon and zero-carbon fuels; incentives promoting sustainable low-carbon and zero-carbon shipping; and support for the optimization of port calls including facilitation of just-in-time arrival of ships.


The Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR) is undertaking a review of the 2015 Guidelines on exhaust gas cleaning systems (EGCS). The guidelines include, among other things, washwater discharge standards.

The MEPC approved a new output on “Evaluation and harmonisation of rules and guidance on the discharge of liquid effluents from EGCS into waters, including conditions and areas”, in the 2020-2021 biennial agenda of the PPR Sub-Committee and the provisional agenda for PPR 7 (taking place in February 2020), with a target completion year of 2021. PPR 7 is expected to further review the documents that were submitted to MEPC 74 in relation to the newly approved output, with a view to refining the title and scope of the output and will report the outcome of its consideration to MEPC.

The MEPC also instructed the Secretariat to liaise with the Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP), an advisory body that advises the United Nations (UN) system on the scientific aspects of marine environmental protection.

The MEPC requested that, subject to sufficient external funding being provided by Member States and other stakeholders, a GESAMP task team be established to assess the available evidence relating to the environmental impact of discharges of exhaust gas cleaning system effluent, with a view to reporting its findings to PPR 7.

Multi-donor trust fund

The MEPC agreed to establish a voluntary multi-donor trust fund (GHG TC-Trust Fund), to provide a dedicated source of financial support for technical cooperation and capacity-building activities to support the implementation of the Initial IMO Strategy on reduction of GHG emissions from ships.

Fourth IMO GHG study

The terms of reference for the Fourth IMO GHG Study were agreed and the tendering process will begin with an invitation to tender issued shortly. The IMO Secretariat will issue a circular letter for procuring the services of the contractor.

The study will include an inventory of current global emissions of GHGs and relevant substances emitted from ships of 100 GT and above engaged in international voyages. The inventory should include total annual GHG emission series from 2012 to 2018, or as far as statistical data are available.

Estimates of carbon intensity (estimates of world fleet’s CO2 emissions per transport work, from 2012 to 2018, or as far as statistical data are available) will also be made. Possible estimates of carbon intensity of international shipping for the year 2008 (the baseline year for the levels of ambition identified in the Initial Strategy) will be considered. The fourth study will develop scenarios for future international shipping emissions from 2018-2050.

A Steering Committee will be established to act as a focal point for MEPC, to review and monitor progress and confirm that the Study meets the terms of reference. It is intended that the work could begin in Autumn 2019, with a view to the final report of the Study being submitted to MEPC 76, to be held in Autumn 2020.

The third IMO GHG Study was published in 2014 and can be viewed here.