Delegates shocked as EU pushes through EEDI changes at IMO

New feeder container vessels could be hit by more stringent EEDI rules. Credit: Dietmar Hasenpusch
New feeder container vessels could be hit by more stringent EEDI rules. Credit: Dietmar Hasenpusch

Delegates at the International Maritime Organization’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) 73 were confounded yesterday by decisions taken on vessel efficiency, which some claimed were made without the data to support them and would cause shipping to be less efficient rather than more environment-friendly.

Debate at MEPC 73 centred on the application of the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI), which is applied to new ships, with most major vessel types expected to improve their efficiency through better design using the EEDI formula. Phase III of EEDI was to be applied in 2025, but a move by EU countries to bring forward that date to 2022 saw significant amendments to the EEDI regulation.

Changes made include efficiency improvements for tankers and bulk carriers, with these vessel types improving their efficiency by 30% of the baseline vessel designs. However, in extraordinary scenes that one delegate described as like an auction, Intertanko and Intercargo said that they would produce data that would show that these efficiency gains were not possible for large tankers and bulk carriers. The MEPC chairman agreed that these submissions could be heard at MEPC 74 after the decision had been taken to change the regulation.

Another delegate claimed, “This was the most exciting session at MEPC I’ve ever been to, but the chairman did not follow procedure.”

In addition to the tanker and bulk carrier changes, container ships will need to improve vessel designs with 40% better efficiency, an increase of 10% and by 2022, three years earlier.

All ro-ro vessels were excluded from the changes. However, other ship types, primarily gas carriers, will have to improve designs by 2022, but following an intervention during the debate by the chair of the EEDI working group efficiency gains will be decided at MEPC 74 next year.

A participant at IMO went on to say that feeder container ship orders could stall following the MEPC’s decision for all new container vessels to be 40% more efficient by 2022. He explained that with the incremental increases in the size of container ships the smaller feeder vessels, up to 40,00 dwt, will be crucial in the distribution of cargo from port hubs to smaller ports. However, these feeder operations barely break even and are often operated at a loss, so the new rule will see owners extend the life of their older vessels rather than building expensive new ships to meet the new, more stringent EEDI rules.

“That will have the opposite effect to the one the EU was trying to achieve, as owners will continue to use older more polluting vessels for years to come,” said the delegate.

Another participant commented, “I like the EU, I voted remain [in the UK referendum] but sometimes the EU gets it wrong. This time the EU has used its bloc vote to push through a regulation that will mean no new container feeder vessels will be built because no one will be able to afford it.”

One EU delegate agreed that the EU’s view on the EEDI was not shared by all EU members and that some of the EU countries had declined to take part in the discussion precisely because there was no supporting data for the views being expressed and voted on.

Meanwhile, the United States, often a key player at the IMO, was silent on the issue as the delegation had reportedly been “gagged” by the Trump administration.