The Shipping Federation of Canada attended the 71st meeting of the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (also known as MEPC) in London from July 3-7, where member states tackled a number of important environmental issues facing the shipping industry.  Below is a summary of the major discussions and decisions arising from the meeting:



Implementation Schedule for Installing BWMS on Board Ships:

The Committee approved amendments to regulation B-3 of the Ballast Water Management Convention related to the timeframe for installing ballast water management systems (BWMS) on board ships.  More specifically, existing ships (i.e. those built before September 8, 2017) will now have until their first or second IOPCC renewal survey after September 8, 2019 to install a BWMS, depending on when the survey occurs.The relevant text approved by the MEPC reads as follows:

Existing ships will have until:

(10.1) the first renewal survey … following the data of entry into force of the Convention if:

          (.1) this survey is completed on or after 8 Sept. 2019, or

          (.2) a renewal survey is completed on or after 8 Sept. 2014 but prior to 8 Sept. 2017;

(10.2) the second renewal survey . . . following the date of entry into force of the Convention if the first renewal survey following the date of entry into force of the Convention is completed prior to 8 September 2019, provided that the conditions of paragraph 10.1(.2) are not met.

Compliance dates for new ships (i.e. those built after September 8, 2017) remain unchanged, meaning that they must have a BWMS installed on delivery.

Code of Approval for Ballast Water Management Systems:

The Committee passed amendments to make the revised G-8 Guidelines on the approval of BWMS mandatory, by expressing them in the form of a code. These guidelines, which were finalized at the last MEPC meeting in the fall of 2016, establish more stringent conditions that BWMS must meet in order to receive IMO type approval.

Formalization of Experience-Building Phase:

The Committee adopted a resolution on the implementation of an experience building phase for the early stages of the convention’s implementation, which will gather the data necessary to inform future amendments to the convention (given that more that more than a decade has elapsed between the convention’s adoption and entry into force). The resolution provides for non-penalization of ships which do not meet the D-2 ballast water discharge standards during the trial period, contingent on the ship’s installation and proper use of a BWMS. The Committee also encouraged member states and interested parties to commence the data gathering associated with the experience-building phase at their earliest convenience, in anticipation of the future approval of the data gathering and analysis plan.

Ballast Water Management Manual:

The Committee finalized and approved a “Ballast Water Management – How To Do It” manual, which provides guidance and advice on ratification, implementation and enforcement of the convention.


At the last MEPC meeting held in October 2016, member states adopted a new regulation to MARPOL Annex VI requiring ships to collect and report data on their fuel consumption as of January 1, 2019 – with such data to be entered into a database that is to be developed and managed by the IMO.  Delegates at MEPC 71 adopted guidelines on the management of this database, which provide information on how data is to be submitted, accessed and anonymized.  Delegates also decided to allow ships flying the flags of states which are not parties of MARPOL Annex VI to submit fuel consumption information to the database, with a view to ensuring that the data collection system is as reflective of the world fleet as possible.


At the October 2016 MEPC meeting, member states approved a roadmap for developing a comprehensive IMO strategy on the reduction of GHG emissions from ships, with an initial strategy to be adopted in 2018 at MEPC 72 and a revised strategy in 2023.  Discussions at MEPC 71 focussed on how to further progress this issue, with the Committee agreeing to a draft outline for the initial strategy comprising the following basic elements:

  • Preamble / introduction / context
  • Vision
  • Levels of ambition and guiding principles
  • List of potential short, mid and long-term measures, including possible timelines and impacts on states
  • Barriers and supportive measures / capacity building and technical cooperation / research and development
  • Periodic review of the strategy

MEPC 71 also decided to hold two Intersessional Working Group meetings to further develop this strategy in October 2017 and April 2018.


A major development at the October 2016 MEPC meeting was the decision of member states to apply the global 0.5% sulphur cap for marine fuel as of January 1, 2020.  Delegates at MEPC 71 addressed a number of challenges related to the implementation of this cap, including the development of a unified verification procedure for different kinds of fuel samples, the development of best practices to help fuel oil purchasers / users ensure the quality of fuel oil delivered to and used onboard ships, and the question of whether there is a continuing need for a fuel availability study.  Although no final decisions were made on these subjects, further discussions will take place through MEPC’s PPR (Pollution Prevention and Response) Sub-Committee, a planned intersessional meeting in 2018, and at MEPC 72 this fall.


During the course of MEPC 71, Canada introduced a paper requesting that measures to reduce the risks associated with the use and carriage of heavy fuel oil (HFO) by ships in Arctic waters be added as a new item to the Committee’s future work agenda.  This proposal was strongly supported by a number of other member states, and it was agreed that the issue would be added to the work plan of the Pollution Prevention and Response Sub-Committee as of 2019.


Canada also introduced a paper to MEPC 71 inviting member states to share information and resources on the impact of vessel underwater noise on marine mammals, with a view to developing measures to mitigate adverse impacts in this respect.  This paper generated a great deal of interest and support from delegates, as did a lunchtime presentation delivered by the Port of Vancouver on its ECHO program, which is specifically designed to address the impact of underwater noise on the Southern Resident Killer Whale (and through which a voluntary vessel slowdown trial will be implemented in British Columbia’s Haro Strait from August 7 to October 6).