26 October 2018

Brexit and environment on the agenda in busy week for maritime lawyers

European Maritime lawyers meet in London Brexit, hot on the heels of IMO approving GHG programme and rejecting US last minute pitch.

European maritime lawyers gather to meet in London today, following earlier developments this week when the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) met in the capital to reject last ditch attempts by the US to soften environmental rules on Sulphur. The IMO also approved an initial strategy on reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from ships comprising a programme of follow-up actions.

Last minute stand

The International Maritime Organization’s marine environment protection committee (MEPC 73) has approved the follow-up programme, intended to be used as a planning tool in meeting the timelines identified in the initial IMO strategy, which was adopted in April 2018. The initial strategy refers to a range of candidate short, mid and long term measures that will be considered by IMO could be finalized between now and 2030. IMO secretary-general Kitack Lim said  the programme ‘sets a clear signal on how to further progress the matter of reduction of GHG emissions from ships up to 2023.’ The US and several flag states sought a late change to an international clampdown on dirty marine fuels, which could delay the move to lower harmful emissions. Ships historically burn bunker, the dregs of the refining process high in Sulphur, but the new IMO rules will require ocean-going vessels to burn fuel with no more than 0.5 per cent sulphur, or have exhaust stacks installed with scrubbers, down from a current limit of 3.5 per cent. The US asked for ‘an experience-building phase’ when low-sulphur emissions standards are imposed on marine fuel oil in January 2020, but the IMO rejected the move. President Trump’s administration wants relaxation of environmental rules for the domestic oil and gas industry.

EMLO agenda

Meeting today in London, the European Maritime Law Organisation (EMLO), established in 1991, is holding its twenty-fourth Annual Conference 2018 with the theme ‘counting down to Brexit,’ looking at the impact on the maritime business. EMLO provides an independent forum for debate and research on issues of interest to those concerned with EU maritime affairs, including both owners and shippers, and the European Commission maritime transport and competition law directorates general. Apart from the threat of Brexit, another key discussion will be on digitalization and blockchain in Shipping. The keynote speaker will be Henrik Mørch, director, transport, post and other services, dg comp of the European Commission in Brussels, with Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, chairman of EMLO, presiding.