MEPC 79 Outcome: Carbon capture, GHG and Mediterranean in the spotlight


The IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) held its 79th session from December 12 to 16, 2022. ABS published a brief providing an overview of the more significant issues progressed at this session, including GHG reduction, the Mediterranean ECA, and carbon capture technologies.

According to the ABS, the Committee received numerous submissions related to its ongoing revision of the Initial IMO Strategy on Reduction of GHG Emissions from Ships (MEPC.304(72)). Member States extensively discussed the revision of ambition levels of the Initial Strategy towards decarbonization of shipping.

The 2030 and 2050 revised targets are still being discussed, along with additional intermediate checkpoint leading up to 2050. In addition, the committee further discussed the implementation of a “basket of measures” in the Revised Strategy, to support achieving the GHG reduction goals.

The revision of the Initial Strategy will continue to be discussed in the Intersessional Working Group on GHG Reduction (ISWG-GHG 14 in March 2023), and a Revised Strategy is expected to be adopted at MEPC 80 (July 2023).

The Revised Strategy is expected to include or address the following:

  • Further Enhancements to Energy Efficiency and Carbon Intensity
  • Revision/Additional Checkpoints for Levels of Ambition in GHG Reduction
  • Proposals for Additional Formulations of Levels of Ambition

However, the UK Chamber of Shipping noted that:

The lack of progress at the IMO is in stark contrast to the progress we are seeing in the European Union with the approval of its Emissions Trading Scheme
As it explained, shipping needs “an internationally agreed target of net zero by 2050 alongside economic incentives to reduce emissions to deliver lasting change across the sector.”

The UK Chamber of Shipping also urged that “commitments that funds raised will be used to support research and development into net zero technology and its deployment alongside the required infrastructure across the shipping sector.”

Candidate GHG Reduction Measures

While discussing the development of the Revised IMO Strategy on Reduction of GHG Emissions from Ships to be adopted at MEPC 80, numerous Member States expressed support for implementation of an integrated basket of measures to reduce GHG emissions, in which those measures implemented earlier (short-term measures) will serve to inform and target measures implemented later (mid- and long-term measures).

Approaches to GHG reduction which are being considered for inclusion in this basket of measures include:

  • Short-term measures already agreed (EEXI and CII)
  • Voluntary measures already agreed (Development of National Action Plans on GHG)
  • Global fuel standards and support for uptake of low-carbon and zero-carbon fuels
  • Market-based measures implementing a mandatory GHG levy

Development of Marine Fuel Life Cycle Guidelines

The Committee received an interim report from the Correspondence Group on Marine Fuel Life Cycle GHG Analysis, which was tasked by MEPC 78 with the development of draft guidelines on life cycle GHG intensity of marine fuels (LCA Guidelines).

At the current stage, the Correspondence Group has made progress in developing a list of main initial fuel production pathways and feedstocks, for which they will develop methodologies that allow for the calculation of Well-to-Tank, Tank-To-Wake and entire Well-to-Wake GHG emissions default values for the fuels identified.

Pathways have been assessed for many different fuel types to identify their feedstock, carbon source, process type and source of energy used in production.

The Correspondence Group also made progress on the development of the Fuel Lifecycle Label (FLL) as a technical tool to collect and convey information relevant for the lifecycle assessments.

It was suggested that the FLL would be produced by fuel suppliers and delivered to ships with Well-to-Tank emission factors and minimum information necessary for calculating Tank-to-Wake emissions.

Discussion on Carbon Capture Technologies

The Committee received several submissions related to recognition of Onboard Carbon Capture and Storage (OCCS) and Onboard Carbon Capture, Use and Storage (OCCUS) in relation to the EEDI / EEXI and CII frameworks.

Member states recognized the importance of supporting this technological approach to reducing GHG emissions, as well as the importance of considering the accounting, verification and certification of such systems to enable their use and to ensure responsible handling and storage of the captured carbon dioxide.

Some delegations highlighted the link with the ongoing Correspondence Group on Lifecycle Guidelines and that the end usage of the captured carbon could be handled by these guidelines, and thus identified the need to postpone the discussion until the Correspondence Group has issue its final report.

Due to time constraints and the already high workload of the Intersessional Working Group on GHG Reduction, further discussion on this subject will be postponed to MEPC 80 (July 2023).

Commenting on the decisions made by MEPC 79, Guy Platten, the Secretary General of the International Chamber of Shipping, said:

The shipping industry urgently needs clear market and regulatory signals to reduce the investment risk currently surrounding alternative energy sources and technologies

Designation of the Mediterranean Sea as an Emission Control Area for Sulphur Oxide

The Committee adopted Resolution MEPC.361(79) establishing a new Emission Control Area (ECA) for the Mediterranean Sea as a whole.

The approval of this new ECA would require vessels to utilize fuel oil of 0.10%m/m sulphur content when operating anywhere within the Mediterranean Sea.

The resolution also provides amendments to MARPOL Annex VI that will acknowledge the Mediterranean Sea alongside other existing ECA’s, provide a formal description of the ECA by coordinates, and confirm the requirement utilize fuel oil of 0.10%m/m sulphur content when operating in this area.

These amendments will enter into force on 1 May 2024, but ships operating in this ECA will be exempt from compliance with the 0.10% m/m sulphur content standard for fuel oil during the first 12 months immediately following entry into force of the amendment (in accordance with MARPOL Annex VI / Regulation 14.7).

Revised Guidelines on the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI)

The Committee adopted Resolution MEPC.364(79) containing the 2022 Guidelines on the Method of Calculation of the Attained Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) for New Ships, superseding the previous version of these guidelines.

Updates to the guidelines include introducing ethane into the list of fuels and providing a conversion factor (CF) for use in calculations, clarification of the maximum allowable deduction due to the shaft generator, and clarification to provide a consistent approach for treatment of multiple load lines.

The Committee also adopted Resolution MEPC.365(79) containing the 2022 Guidelines on Survey and Certification of the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI), superseding the previous version of these guidelines.

Updates to the guidelines were made to reference the latest version of the ITTC Recommended Procedure Regarding the Conduct and Evaluation of Speed/Power Trials. It is noted that the most current version of this standard at the time of sea trials is what will be applicable for each vessel.

Discussion on Risks of EGCS Discharge Water

Following the approval of circular MEPC.1/Circ.899 (Guidelines for Risk and Impact Assessments of the Discharge Water from Exhaust Gas Cleaning Systems) at the previous session, the Committee received several submissions related to further considerations of risks presented by the discharge of EGCS wastes into the marine environment.

In discussing these submissions, some Member States supported establishing representative emission factors of substances found in the discharge water from EGCS, in order to support a more accurate risk assessment.

Other Member States supported a view that the substances found in EGCS discharge water represented a source of pollution and thus conflicted with certain obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) requiring States to prevent marine pollution (Article196) and preventing States from transforming one type of pollution to another (Article 195).

Some delegations expressed the view that the use of EGCS scrubbers should be prohibited for this reason, while others stressed that a global prohibition would create uncertainty for the industry, which has in good faith invested in EGCS technology in accordance with the provisions of MARPOL Annex VI.

Proposal to Designate the North-Western Mediterranean Sea as a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area

The Committee agreed in principle to the designation of the North-West Mediterranean Sea as a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA).

This area is proposed to be established in order to protect cetaceans from the risk of ship collisions, ship-generated pollution and to increase awareness of a critically important area for the fin whale and the sperm whale.

The proposed PSSA is limited by the coastline of France, Italy, Monaco and Spain and includes areas under the jurisdiction of coastal States.

The large size and high shipping traffic of this PSSA was acknowledged, but it was also noted that due to the significance of the ecological, socio-economic and scientific values of the area, several existing national and international protective measures are already implemented in this area.

The designation of a PSSA and the additional associated measures will contribute to protecting cetaceans, minimizing the risk of ship strikes and support scientific research on the matter.

The Committee’s formal approval for designation of the North-West Mediterranean Sea PSSA will be subject to further development and approval of associated protective measures (APMs) to be developed by the NCSR Sub-Committee. The proposed APMs include recommendations on:

  • Navigating with caution within the PSSA when and where large and medium cetaceans are present
  • Limiting speed to between 10 and 13 knots as a voluntary speed reduction
  • Keeping an appropriate safety distance or speed reduction measures adapted to existing conditions
  • Reporting and broadcasting of navigational warnings related to cetaceans
  • Watchkeeping arrangements for cetacean presence or movement
  • Dissemination of information in order to raise awareness of the protection of the marine environment and the PSSA with a particular emphasis on cetaceans.