Contributing cosponsors clarifying misconceptions on MEPC 73 submission

Some of the cosponsors of a document submitted to the Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC) 73 meeting, which will take place from October 22nd to October 26th, have issued a clarification on several matters raised by the submitted document. They said that concerns had been raised that were based on misconceptions as to what the paper aimed to say.

On August 31st the Bahamas, Liberia, Marshall Islands, Panama, BIMCO, INTERCARGO and INTERTANKO cosponsored and submitted a document to the Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC) 73 meeting.

The paper, Safety Implications and respective challenges associated with 2020 compliant fuels, aimed to assist the MEPC 73 in its consideration of potential safety implications associated with the transition to the 0.5% fuel oil sulphur standard, to be introduced on January 1st 2020.

The paper contained a proposal to establish an experience-building phase (EBP), intended as an institutionalized data gathering measure, with the purpose of providing greater transparency and detailed information on the compliance situation after January 1st 2020.

Some of the cosponsors have now raised several points of clarification to explain the objectives of the proposal correctly.

Misconception 1:

The paper sought to delay the 0.5% global fuel oil sulphur content standard


The cosponsors said that they were fully committed to a successful transition to the 0.5% fuel oil sulphur standard from January 1st 2020. The paper did not attempt to change the standard, nor did it seek to delay the start date. “Any claim that the cosponsors are seeking to delay the 1 January 2020 coming into force date is false.”

Misconception 2:

The paper implied a delay to the enforcement of the 0.5% global fuel oil sulphur content standard.


There was no suggestion in the paper to delay or weaken the general enforcement provisions of MARPOL Annex VI in a wholesale manner. Compliance with the 0.50% global fuel oil sulphur standard was expected to be enforced on 1 January 2020 in the same manner as the current 3.5% global standard (and the 0.10% standard within emission control areas) was enforced today. The paper sought to facilitate a pragmatic approach by Administrations specifically in those instances where a ship is not able to achieve compliance due to fuel non-availability and fuel quality problems. This was relevant regardless of the means by which a shipowner chose to comply with the standard and did not suggest a wholesale relaxation of enforcement regimes in all scenarios.

Misconception 3:

The proposal was not clear as to what constitutes “undue penalization” of individual ships.


“Undue penalization” in this context referred to unfair control measures applied to a ship which was found non-compliant due to factors beyond its control, despite all best efforts and preparation. The cosponsors said that, given the challenges anticipated with the transition to the 0.5% global fuel oil sulphur limit and potential safety risks resulting from new blends or new fuel types, based on trends identified within the paper, attention was called upon relevant authorities to ensure fuel oil suppliers uphold their share of obligations under MARPOL Annex VI to supply safe and compliant fuel oil, and  take appropriate remedial action against suppliers that were found to deliver non-compliant fuel oil. The cosponsors said that the responsibility for compliance in this regard could not fall “entirely upon the shipowner”.

The cosponsors said that, ultimately, it was up to Parties of MARPOL Annex VI to determine the appropriate action to take in non-compliance situations with due regard to mitigating evidence provided in case of non-availability. The paper made no distinct proposal in this regard.

However, the cosponsors said that information gathered from the EBP would provide greater transparency to enable all Parties to take appropriate enforcement action in a consistent manner in such situations.

Misconception 4:

The paper sought to delay the adoption of the MARPOL Annex VI amendments prohibiting carriage of non-compliant fuel oil.


The draft amendments to regulation 14 of MARPOL Annex VI to institute a prohibition against the carriage of non-compliant fuels were set to be adopted at MEPC 73 and enter into force as early as March 1st 2020. Importantly, this decision does not have any impact on the effective date for the 0.50% global fuel oil Sulphur standard taking effect on 1 January 2020.  On that basis, there is no connection between the EBP proposal and the consideration of adoption of these amendments”, the cosponsors said, emphasizing that the amendments were under consideration as a separate agenda item and the paper did not propose any delay to the adoption of these amendments.

Misconception 5:

The functioning and timeline for the EBP was unclear.


The cosponsors said that they envisaged the EBP as a unique formalized data collection and analysis measure to closely monitor the implementation of the 0.5% global fuel oil sulphur content standard. Specific details on the plan for the data gathering and analysis would need to be developed during the period between MEPC 73 and MEPC 74, in collaboration with all other IMO Member States and Organizations, to find the most appropriate approach. A fixed timeframe was not proposed for the EBP enabling it to have sufficient flexibility to either be shortened or extended to conclude when the fuel oil availability situation stabilizes on a global basis.

“In any case, all ships are expected to fully comply with the 0.5% global fuel oil sulphur content standard on 1 January 2020, regardless of when the EBP commences or how the data is collected”, the co sponsors said

Misconception 6:

The EBP would lead to a revision of MARPOL Annex VI, which would create uncertainty and delay implementation.


A possible review of the regulatory framework of MARPOL Annex VI was suggested in order to provide a goal or end-point to the EBP process.  Functionally, such a review could not delay implementation of the 0.5% global fuel oil sulphur content standard after it had already come into effect.

The cosponsors said that it was not possible to ascertain whether any improvements to the regulatory framework were necessary without knowing the situation after implementation at the start of 2020. “Possible revisions might be necessary to ensure more effective implementation of the standard.  Otherwise, if the results of the EBP suggest there is no compelling need to improve the regulatory framework, then no revisions will be considered”, the cosponsors said.

The contributing cosponsors concluded by stating that they were aware of the uncertainties and challenges associated with the consistent implementation of the 0.5% global fuel oil sulphur standard and that they were seeking consensus at MEPC 73 to develop an approach to safely address these challenges, while not delaying the enforcement of the standard.