MEPC chairman comes in for criticism

Of the more dry topics being discussed at the headquarters of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in London this week on the greenhouse gas (GHG) agenda is the subject of working arrangements, specifically how much working time is going to be made available for IMO to do its work and how quickly will the UN body be able to implement a GHG policy. The working arrangement debate has engendered some strong feelings from delegates at the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) this week with the Japanese MEPC chairman, Hideaki Saito, coming in for criticism.

In the debate yesterday, Saito overturned a majority of sovereign governments’ positions to develop a standing technical group which would enable IMO to fast-track work on GHG. Despite strong protests at his decision, he refused to change his mind with some furious delegates telling Splash his intransigence threatens the credibility of IMO itself on climate change if Saito does not respect the will of the majority of countries on this point today or tomorrow.

Saito instead ruled to keep the current practice of agreeing to additional meetings in an ad hoc way, something that some delegates claim is losing large amounts of time. 

Discussions this week are meant to come up with urgent short-term measures to speed up shipping’s decarbonisation goals. 

“The chair’s decision creates a major obstacle to the timely implementation of a GHG policy, and is deeply concerning given it was taken against the majority,” one IMO delegate told Splash on condition of anonymity.  

There is a still a huge amount of work that needs to be progressed on the matter including debating and agreeing detailed policy measures that can achieve GHG reductions and carrying out impact assessments to understand how those policy measures might potentially create economic consequences on certain countries.

“This work clearly needs to be undertaken urgently and efficiently, but the IMO seems not to want to do that,” the source at IMO told Splash. 

MEPC closes tomorrow. 

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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