The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (“MARPOL”) is the IMO legislation that deals with marine pollution. MARPOL is published by the IMO and adhered to by IMO Member States. It breaks down into six annexes, each regulating a different area of pollution produced by ships.

New regulations updating MARPOL 73/78 came into force on the 1 January 2013. Worldwide environmental politics have increasingly focused on energy efficiency in recent years and these updates follow suit by seeking to reduce further the carbon footprint of the maritime world. Arguably the most significant of the recent updates are to be found in Annex VI (air pollution/emissions) and introduce two new requirements; the ‘Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan’ and the ‘Energy Efficiency Design Index’. Both are further explained below.

Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan (“SEEMP”)

All existing and new vessels over 400 gross tonnes (including yachts) require an SEEMP as of 1 January 2013. The aim of an SEEMP is to regulate and reduce the energy consumed by ocean going vessels. IMO guidelines have suggested a cyclical approach to assessment comprising of four steps; planning, implementation, monitoring and self-assessment. The total energy efficiency should be managed quantitatively and the guidelines suggest that this should be done either by way of an annual fuel consumption target or an Energy Efficiency Operational Indicator (“EEOI”). The latter essentially indicates the ratio of emitted C02 to transport work and for the most part, appears to be preferred by the IMO. By its very nature however, an EEOI is best suited to vessels engaged in transport work.

Although approaches and measuring techniques are suggested, there is no prescribed method for achieving a compliant SEEMP. It will be interesting to see how vessel management develops to meet this new area of regulation. Energy efficiency on ships is not a new practice. In recent years, ship owners and charters have tried to minimise running cost in light of rocketing fuel prices. Popular measures that minimise cost include slow steaming (reducing speed), hull maintenance and anti-fouling paints (which reduce drag). All of these techniques save fuel. The IMO guidelines on the SEEMP suggest all three of the above, along with other practices such as optimised ship handling and choosing an efficient propulsion system. Industry preference at this point however, appears to be speed reduction, since this is where the greatest savings stand to be made. Indeed, Maersk are so on board with the practice that their new Triple E was designed with slow speeding in mind.

Reducing speed however, is not without its critics and consequences. Some industry stakeholders cite engine damage and risk of late arrival as its main drawbacks. The jury remains out on whether engine damage is a real danger with some naval engineers having stated that slow steaming has little detrimental effect on a ship’s engines. More time spent in transit however, will naturally increase the risk of contractual breach for late delivery. The problem has attracted enough debate to prompt a BIMCO Slow Steaming Clause but a contractual clause between charterer/owner and buyer is of little comfort to any third parties relying on goods to be delivered.

One foreseeable benefit of the SEEMP however, is that they will likely bring about increased cooperation between ship owners and time charters. The SEEMP provides owners with yet further incentive to maximise fuel efficiency whereas traditionally under a time charter, they pass fuel costs on to the chartering party.

Currently there are no set penalties, and enforcement will be left to the flag state. Exactly how strictly SEEMPs will be regulated therefore remains to be seen.

Energy Efficiency Design Index (“EEDI”)

The other notable introduction to Annex VI is the EEDI.

New ships listed within the regulation, and those listed that are set to undergo substantial modification, are required to calculate an attained Energy Efficiency Design Index (“EEDI”). Interestingly, yachts and superyachts are not subject to this requirement.

The EEDI is a measure of ships energy efficiency and is calculated by means of a technical formula which is detailed in published guidelines. The EEDI is perhaps the most onerous and exciting element of the Annex VI updates. It stands to affect several industry stakeholders including owners looking to modify, shipyards and classification societies.

Again however, the methods used for compliance have not been specified, leaving the door open for innovation. Shipyards and classification societies in particular, will reflect on their practices. Fuel efficient propulsion systems are the most effective way to achieve compliance meaning that now more than ever, it makes commercial sense to invest in fuel-efficient technology.

Zero-carbon options are certainly available, but most are unlikely to be adopted across the industry. Nuclear vessels for instance, have been in operation in the Russian Arctic waters yet remain unpopular amidst concerns over maritime security and the need for specialised crew. Similarly, renewable energy is still unable to generate the power required to propel a vessel of any significant size, although passenger ships and smaller vessels may begin to look to renewable options for some of their electrical needs. No EEDI is required however, for newbulildings or modifications with diesel-electric propulsion, turbine propulsion or hybrid propulsion systems. Vessels powered by these systems should also have little trouble producing a compliant SEEMP.

International Energy Efficiency Certificate (“IEEC”)

Finally, the regulations introduce a new certificate to evidence compliance; the ‘International Energy Efficiency Certificate’. This is an additional requirement to the International Air Pollution Prevention Certificate already issued under Annex VI, and will be issued or endorsed by the flag state upon satisfactory completion of the surveys required under the Annex. It evidences the presence of a compliant SEEMP and, where required, a compliant EEDI.
Written by Patrick Greaney, member of Bargate Murray’s Superyacht and Dispute Resolution Teams.