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Let’s talk rubbish: what MEPC79 means for garbage, ballast and carbon

Finding ways to cut GHG emissions are at the top of everyone’s agendas, but this isn’t the only way to make long-term progress towards sustainability in the industry. Garbage disposal, ballast water management and, of course, cutting carbon emissions were widely discussed at the International Maritime Organization’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 79) recently.

To start the New Year right, let’s reflect on some of the outcomes from MEPC 79. Pour yourself a cup of tea (green tea, for sure 😉), and let’s get stuck in.

Staying the course on carbon

For the past several years, the focus of MEPC meetings has been carbon emissions, and how IMO’s member states can agree to push shipping decarbonization further. As the Maritime Transition Scenarios report, to which we contributed this year, outlines, the industry has a long way to go if it is to reach targets that are already set out, let alone become compliant with the Paris Agreement.

The outcomes on this front were sparse this year, with commentators describing the conference as one that ‘achieved little in terms of showing greater green targets’. This puts more pressure on decisions to be made in July 2023 at MEPC 80. At the same time, MEPC 79 didn’t change anything when it comes to CII’s implementation – it has come into force this January as expected, so make sure you’re up to speed (whichever speed will help you arrive at the optimum time with minimal fuel consumption, of course)!

Whatever happens at MEPC 80 or beyond, we’re confident that shipping has access to the necessary technology and expertise to reach net zero – that’s why we have joined the Global Maritime Forum’s call to decarbonize shipping by 2050, and continue to find new ways for the industry to collaborate and accelerate the green transition.

New ECAs to manage

Carbon isn’t the only type of emissions that MEPC manages. One of the most significant outcomes from the conference was the news of a new Emission Control Area (ECA) in the Mediterranean, which will restrict Sulfur Oxide (SOx) emissions from ships in the area. ECAs add a level of complexity to voyage planning, with operators often choosing to avoid them, in order to minimize spending on more expensive fuels. NAPA has tools to manage passage through ECAs, and we’ve even crunched the numbers on whether it’s really worth avoiding them.

The load of garbage

The battle against maritime pollution is fought on multiple fronts, with garbage and ballast water included in the MEPC’s remit. The impact of maritime plastic pollution continues to attract public scrutiny, and this year MEPC has adopted a resolution that means more ships will have to keep logs on what they are throwing away. According to ABS, “The Committee adopted Resolution MEPC.360(79) containing amendments to MARPOL Annex V to expand the requirement for a garbage record book by lowering the threshold down to ships of 100 gross tonnage and above (from the current threshold 400 gross tonnage and above). This has been done in an effort to expand tracking and reporting of accidental discharges to the sea that may involve plastics.”

As the saying goes, ‘you can’t manage what you don’t measure’, and this also applies to the management of ballast water, with its risks of spreading invasive species. MEPC 79 has updated the Ballast Water Record Book (BWRB), with changes that “require a more detailed and standardized reporting of ballast water operations.”

 

Crews already have a huge amount of actions and data to keep records on, and as we can see, it’s increasing constantly. This is why NAPA Logbook is continually evolving to stay ahead of the regulations to ensure that crew can easily manage environmental record-keeping, and more. Additionally, as an electronic logbook, it allows teams to use the information they gather to find new insights and efficiencies, rather than leaving valuable data on paper. Going forward, the idea is to evolve our electronic logbook into a universal data-capturing tool that goes beyond its traditional role of just logging information required for regulatory and compliance needs. It will become a nodal point for all operational data you need, logged in an error-free and automated manner. The data from the electronic logbook will provide the foundation to optimize every aspect of fleet operations, even shoreside, including supporting the transition to a more sustainable future by handling data for ESG and other environmental reporting.

Overall, if we’re going to see any major changes to shipping’s green regulatory landscape, it’ll be in summer 2023. But in the meantime, with the implementation of CII, and new data to record and manage, there is plenty for ship owners to do – and no better time to start measuring and optimizing all aspects of operations.

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