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IMO prepares for heavy lifting in finalising new emission measures

The finalisation of new operational and technical efficiency measures is a priority for the IMO, which is under increasing pressure to move faster on longer-term measures

The International Maritime Organization will want to wrap up new short-term emissions measures next month, but the volume and scope of proposals foreshadow a long and potentially tedious meeting for its environmental committee

THE members of the International Maritime Organization will seek to adopt the first new global short-term measures for shipping greenhouse gases next month, but not before hearing new concerns and demands from their peers and industry.

The Marine Environment Protection Committee meets in June to adopt technical efficiency and efficiency measures that will help the IMO attain its target of improving the global fleet’s average carbon intensity by at least 40% by 2030 compared with 2008.

The hope is that the IMO will finalise the measures, allowing itself to move on to more pressing and longer-term issues, such as the discussion over a potential carbon levy and the strengthening of its greenhouse gas strategy in 2023.

But despite having approved the measures in its last meeting in November 2020, the number of submissions to the meeting on the short-term measures and their level of detail suggests that the committee will have to engage in another round of virtual negotiations.

While the technical efficiency measure, the Energy Efficiency Existing Ship Index, will require further deliberations, it is the operational efficiency measure, known as the Carbon Intensity Indicator that is expected to be the more contentious.

The CII will require ships to improve their carbon intensity performance by a certain percentage annually from 2023 until 2030. Ships will be graded from A to E for their performance and those with D and E ratings will need to formulate corrective action plans to rectify their shortcomings.

IMO governments have been criticised for lack of sufficient enforcement of the CII. A previous proposal to force ships that perform poorly out of the global fleet was abandoned in the run-up to last November’s MEPC.

Since then, a correspondence group, which was jointly co-ordinated by China, Japan and the European Commission, developed the implementation details of the regulations.

Among the most important are the CII calculation method, the carbon intensity reduction rates and the actual reduction rates.

The correspondence group has tabled two alternative reduction rate methods for the governments to choose from and hit the at least 40% by 2030 target; a demand-based measurement or a supply-based measurement.

Accounting for different variables, the two options have different starting points, with the group estimating that in 2019 international shipping had achieved 33.3% and 23.6% from a demand-for-shipping based and supply-of-shipping based perspective respectively, compared with 2008.

The group then suggested that the incoming annual carbon intensity requirements for ships would need to improve aggregate CII by at least 10% and 21.5%, in demand-based and supply-based terms respectively, by 2030 compared with 2019.

These measurements would get the international fleet over the minimum 40% improvement by 2030, as the IMO had agreed to.

The targets would be backed by required annual improvements in carbon intensity, which both lead to the cumulative reduction in 2030 and ensure a continuous decline in the carbon intensity through 2030.

Delegates will have to decide whether to prescribe specific carbon intensity reduction rates for different ship types or the same flat reduction rates to all vessel types.

As governments are called to choose between options, countries and industry associations are looking for clarifications and amendments on specific ship types and other details, through submissions to both the MEPC and a preparatory meeting, known as the intersessional working group that convenes in late May.

Some submissions seek to address more fundamental issues and steer higher level policy-making towards a certain direction. For example, the United States and France warn about the limitations of following a demand-based approach to emissions reductions compare to a supply-based approach.

Denmark has asked the IMO to allow companies to comply with the CII on a fleet level rather than forcing them to attend to each individual ship.

The World Shipping Council is questioning whether the correspondence group’s estimated 2019 efficiency improvements are accurate and suggests that a single uniform annual reduction rate is used for all vessels to “promote further efficiency improvements across the fleet as a whole”.

Greece wants to see specific reduction factors for different ship types.

“It should be taken into consideration that slow-speed ships (such as tankers and bulk carriers) cannot achieve the same flat reduction as faster ships, which have enough speed margin to drop their speed by a few knots and easily achieve their reduction rate,” it said in a submission.

Other submissions are much more specific to particular issues and vessel types; there are concerns raised for refrigerated container cargoes, cruiseships without traditional propulsion systems, adverse weather conditions, voyages in ice conditions onboard CO2 capture, among other issues.

The volume of submissions was somewhat expected as the finalisation of the CII and the EEXI will be the biggest step the IMO has taken since it adopted its initial GHG strategy in 2023.

But the MEPC is pressed for time and with around 200 documents to get through on everything ranging from marine litter to the industry’s proposed $5bn research and development fund, delegates at the week-long meeting will have to find a way to address outstanding concerns and convincingly deliver the new measures.

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