The 66th session of the International Maritime Organisation’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC66) this April will see further attempts by industry and countries that support industry by providing “flags of convenience” (ie: countries who allow vessels to use their flags without much control) to undermine the implementation of important ship air pollution agreements.

The 66th session of the International Maritime Organisation’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC66) this April will see further attempts by industry and countries that support industry by providing “flags of convenience” (ie: countries who allow vessels to use their flags without much control) to undermine the implementation of important ship air pollution agreements.

At MEPC65 last July Russia argued that the necessary NOx (1) abatement technologies were not available for the so-called “Tier III” new engine standard to come into force in 2016, and won preliminary support for a 5 year delay to 2021.

At the same meeting an IMO working group set up to look at the issue concluded that the necessary engines were available and that the 2016 implementation date should be kept.

The US, Canada, Germany, Denmark and Japan are preparing a strong defence of the original timetable for implementation of the “Tier III” standard by 2016 and will be submitting a paper to MEPC66.

If Russia’s position prevails, the implications could extend beyond NOx with a precedent set for other regulations.

A similar five year delay is possible for a recently agreed global ship fuel sulphur standard. Industry is lobbying hard for an early start to the IMO fuel availability study that will determine whether or not a delay is necessary to the implementation date for the new 0.5% global sulphur (SOx) standard for ship’s fuel.

The original agreement says the study should be completed by 2018 but there is disagreement over when work on the study should start. Industry expects it to conclude that there is insufficient fuel available, while their critics say that the earlier you start the study the more likely it is the study will reach that conclusion. The 0.5% global sulphur standard is due to come into force in 2020, but could be delayed for up to five years.

Proponents of an early start to the study won an important ally in late 2013 when the IMO’s Secretary General appeared to support such a move. More recently Turner, Mason & Company, consulting engineers with expertise in this area, have concluded that low sulphur fuel availability in 2020 will not be a problem.

The timing of the fuel availability study, as well as the possible delay on NOx standards, will also be discussed at MEPC66 in March.


(1) NOx is a generic term for mono-nitrogen oxides, which are produced from the reaction of nitrogen and oxygen gases in the air during combustion especially at high temperatures.

NOx gases are toxic and have a variety of health impacts effects on breathing and the respiratory system, damage to lung tissue, reduction in lung function, and premature death. Small particles penetrate deeply into sensitive parts of the lungs and can cause or worsen respiratory disease such as emphysema and bronchitis, and aggravate existing heart disease.

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