ZVT Radio: Sveinung Oftedal

IMO - MEPC, what to come

Listen to the interview with Sveinung Oftedal, Senior Adviser, Norwegian Ministry of Climate and Environment or read the transcript below.

Sveinung Oftedal, Specialist Director, welcome to Zero Vision Tool radio, interviewing at the Motorways of the Sea conference in Gothenburg. Can you please introduce yourself and your role at Motorways of the Sea?

My role is to be an international negotiator on the behalf of the Norwegian government. I also have a role at IMO as chairman of one of the committees, the pollution prevention and response committee. So I have dealt with international requirements for shipping for almost 20 years. Over 20 years in fact.

Can you tell us a bit about your speech on the topic of ‘IMO – MEPC. What to come’?

I was asked to look to the future, but in doing that, I also looked back, 15 years back, because I think that it is very important to know our history to be able to look to the future. In the last 15 years, a large number of environmental topics have been discussed by IMO and there has been a kind of revolution in terms of new requirements. 2015 will not mark the end of this. There will be more to come in the future in terms of environmental regulations, there will be stricter requirements for the regulations that we already have and perhaps some new topics will even be introduced.

So the main message to shipping is that there will be further environmental requirements in the future, and of course I can highlight issues that will result in further requirements in the future. One of these issues is climate change. We have now enforced the first generation of energy efficiency requirements, we are negotiating the second generation of energy efficiency requirements, and I think that there will be a successful end to these negotiations. It will take some time, but it will certainly happen, especially considering all of the climate change issues.

In this region, the NOx emission control area issue is the most obvious, where we have internal discussions among the Baltic Sea and North Sea states on whether or not to submit an application to the IMO. I think that will come, and strict NO extenders for shipping for new builds will therefore also be introduced in this region. Furthermore, the Ballast Water Management Convention, which deals with the unwanted introduction of alien species, will enter into force. We just have to add some theoretification. Then there will be a period during which we implement the requirements for installing equipment on board, particularly for shipping. So there is a long, long list of topics being discussed.

What is the latest from IMO regarding environmental issues?

The latest is that we have agreed on the environmental requirement for the Polar Code, which means that there will be special requirements for ships operating in the Arctic and Antarctic. That will enter into force on 1 January 2017. It comprises safety requirements and environmental requirements, so we have finalised the environmental side of things. We are going to finalise the safety side this week. We also reached a resolution for the Ballast Water Management Convention, removing any residual uncertainty.

We also discussed the sewage standards that we have introduced for the Baltic Sea, where there is a requirement to remove phosphorous and nitrogen. We have confirmed that we are able to meet these standards with the technology in place. We have also been working with air pollution, looking into fuel quality. We are yet to agree on the black carbon issue. We have been discussing whether we should regulate black carbon in the Arctic. There is some dispute over the definition of black carbon and how to measure it etc. so further technical work is required before the committee can make any decisions.

What can we expect in terms of sustainability on a global scale in the future?

I think that we will see shipping change in terms of design, engines and fuels. Shipping will become more energy efficient. Furthermore, when it comes to the new big players in the world, or the new large economies, I think there is a much bigger focus on environmental requirements in many of these countries. I can see things happening in China and there is great environmental awareness in Singapore. Brazil and India clearly also have some awareness of it, but of course different countries and economies have different focus areas on their political agenda.

But I do not foresee there being an alternative to sustainable shipping, and I think that the message to the industry is that you have to be proactive to maintain your company’s finances. If you sit on the fence and wait, you will not be able to meet the challenge. I think the biggest change will be in fuel. It will move from HFO being in the dominant position to diversity – lighter fuels, alternative fuels – and the shift in energy resources will also be a big change for shipping.

So what is the next big thing?

The next big thing is the thing we do not know anything about at the moment. Throughout history, there have always been surprises. What I have been talking about are things in progress and under negotiation. What is clearly the most difficult political issue is the climate change/energy efficiency issue. This is at the top of the list globally, and it will be a big thing, but there are always surprises. New problems and challenges of which we are unaware. In 15 years, we will be looking at new issues. It is impossible to say what.

Thank you.