1. Finalisation of the 2023 Greenhouse Gas (GHG) strategy

This is probably the most anticipated and widely speculated topic of MEPC 80. We know from the press that there is external pressure being applied to the IMO to agree targets and measures which would see maritime's ambitions align with the 1.5 degrees limit and the wider Paris Agreement. The early reports from the working group last week, ISWG-GHG 15, are positive. Discussions last week focused on the revised GHG strategy, on levels of ambition, candidate GHG reduction measures, follow-up actions and the next periodic review of the strategy. 

Discussions around the level of ambition, within the strategy, seemed to draw some consensus around: 

  • The carbon intensity reduction for 2030 being kept at 40% compared to the 2008 levels. (This is the same as initial strategy and relates to the implementation of short-term measures such as EEDI, EEXI and CII). 
  • The long-term GHG emissions reduction ambition of ‘net zero’ is proposed for 2050 or around mid-century, mindful of different national circumstances. 
  • Indicative interim checkpoints for GHG emission reduction could be introduced for 2030 and 2040 (compared to the 2008 levels) if finalised at MEPC 80. It’s possible that the 2030 checkpoint could be at least 20%, possibly striving for 25%, and the 2040 checkpoint could be 70%, possibly striving for 75%. 
  • Fuels and/or energy sources as well as technologies of zero or near-zero GHG emissions are to represent 5%, striving for 10%, of the energy mix used by international shipping by 2030. 
  • Guiding principles being kept similar to those agreed during the initial GHG strategy in 2018. 

There was no consensus, however, on emissions offsetting from other sectors outside the maritime industry within the GHG emission reduction framework, an area where there has been intensive discourse and debate across our sector.  

But that doesn't mean that the 2023 GHG strategy will pass easily. The IMO, as a collective of states, has long been a forum of competing ideals, individual country interests and domestic and international agendas being pursued by each country. Can these be put aside? Or will the IMO have to find a compromise? We will see how the politics plays out this week.   

2. Review progress on the selection of mid- and long-term measures for development

Having a revised strategy is important, but equally important is how we get there, the direction of travel and what we must do to achieve the ultimate goal decades away. That is where the mid- and long-term measures come in. Further discussions are expected which look likely to agree a so-called “basket of measures” which will include technical and economic measures. The economic measures to be agreed are uncertain at this time but it looks increasingly likely that the Global Gas Fuel Standard (GFS) will be the technical measure.  

The GFS would be the only technical measure proposed and as such is a key candidate measure to underpin the ambitions of the revised GHG strategy. Further assessment is expected at MEPC 80 to review the GFS measure and to agree a suitable economic measure as a combination or a stand-alone element. The proposed economic elements fall into four categories: 

  1. Levies or flat rate contributions.  
  2. Feebates or reward mechanisms.  
  3. Emission Cap and Trade Systems (ECTS).  
  4. Flexible compliance instruments associated with technical elements. 

3. Ballast Water Management (BWM) Convention review

With all the discussions and commentary around the GHG strategy and measures to support the achievement of the targets, it’s important to remember the other important measures which MEPC 80 will be discussing. One of these key other items on the agenda is the review of the BWM Convention.  

It is expected that the review group will discuss requirements to establish a separate issue addressing existing ships with BWMS that cannot meet the BWM Convention requirements in ports with challenging water quality (CWQ), focusing on: 

  • How to address the existing technology gap with BWMS, particularly when operating ships in areas of challenging water quality (CWQ) 
  • The development of temporary guidance/training/procedures: 
    • On the application of the BWM Convention to ships operating in ports with challenging water quality. 
    • To define CWQ whilst accounting for existing technology. 
    • To collect real-world data on ports with CWQ considering all physical parameters to develop water quality benchmarks to better define ports with CWQ. 
    • For all operating scenarios in the Original Equipment Manufacturer's Manual (OEMM). 
  • The testing standards for Type Approval (TA) of BWMS, including strengthening existing standards for TA test water, development of specific testing requirements/guidance for BWMS treatment methods when a design change is made to a previously type approved BWMS, consideration of how type approved BWMS can be improved to meet D-2 standards in CWQ conditions. 
  • The development of additional verification systems that give confidence that BWMS perform to the D-2 standard, leaving PSC as an additional control point rather than the primary control point to verify compliance. 

We know that that not all BWMS are appropriate for all ports with CWQ conditions. It is the responsibility of the asset owner and not the approving authority or Recognised Organisation to ensure that the appropriate BWMS is installed. Information on BWMS operation in areas of CWQ could be preferably included in the Type Approval Certificate, although a review of the certificate would be needed to facilitate this. 

Proper definitions of the terminologies associated with TA of BWMS should be considered to avoid different approval standards/practises being applied among approving authorities. 

Want to know what MEPC 80 will mean for you and your operations? Register now for our MEPC 80 – Protect the future of your fleet and explore IMO regulations and energy transition strategies webinar.