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Remarks on IMO’s reaction to the EU MRV Regulation

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Nelson F. Coelho, Doctoral Researcher in International Law at Utrecht University, provides his insights on IMO MEPC 70 decision regarding carbon dioxide emissions from international shipping. Dr. Coelho attended the Committee as an observer and notes that  IMO’s  approach on collecting data for  the CO2 emissions differs significantly from the EU MRV legislation.

The Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the IMO had already approved, in its 69th session back in April this year, the setting of mandatory requirements for ships to record and report data on their fuel consumption. At the 70th meeting of this IMO organ, it was decided to adopt those requirements as modifications to MARPOL Annex VI. This decision is the first step of a roadmap through to 2023 that aims at developing a comprehensive IMO strategy on reduction of GHG emissions from ships. As a consequence of the entry into force of this roadmap, all vessels larger than 5000 GT will have to report fuel consumption starting 1 January 2019. This mandatory global data collection system represents an improvement in what regards shipping energy efficiency and will provide relevant information for any strategy to mitigate the carbon footprint of this industry. Still, this outcome cannot be fully understood without looking outside of the IMO setting. These negotiations were held under the shadow of EU Regulation 2015/757, whereby European Union member states decided that they will unilaterally, and as early as 1 January 2018, be monitoring shipping CO2 emissions. The question to be asked now is whether the MEPC 70 decision will succeed in pushing the EU legislation back into the drawer.

At the outset it must be noted that these two international organizations have very different agendas in what respects climate change. EU member states must respond to increasing internal pressures to do more to reduce their GHG emissions footprint (e.g. the Urgenda case in the Netherlands, and the Planet Earth casein the UK). But most of the remaining IMO states however solely take into consideration the particular international commitment they have consented to under the UNFCCC Paris Agreement. The fact that some states parties to the IMO are EU member states may explain their negotiation strategies at the MEPC. Nonetheless, despite them being an active number of delegations represented at the IMO, their overall influence, albeit relevant, has proven to be less than decisive.

As a consequence of this MEPC 70 decision, Regulation 22-A will be added to MARPOL Annex VI. This Regulation on collection and reporting of ship fuel consumption data sets forth some steps to be followed by ships and respective administrations. First, the ship must collect the data. Then it must aggregate the data collected in each calendar year. Then it must report that data to the national administration. The administration then verifies the data received according to national procedures, which will follow IMO guidelines. Then the administrations will transfer the data into the IMO Fuel Consumption Database. It is up to the IMO Secretary-General to keep this information in an anonymized database and to report annually to the MEPC with a summary of the data gathered in this process. The data to be submitted includes, amongst few technical characteristics of the ship, the fuel consumption, by fuel type, in metric tonnes and methods used for collecting fuel consumption data as well as distance travelled from berth to berth, hours not at berth.

This approach differs from that set forth by EU legislation. The focus of the EU is put directly on the CO2emissions and not just on fuel consumption or the efficiency of the ship. Also, companies are here expected to perform the calculations of such emissions themselves, following methods described in the Regulation. Companies can chose the method of their preference, as long as they use it consistently for each ship once chosen. [...]


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