HELCOM Ministerial Declaration omits NECA status of Baltic Sea from 2016

HELCOM Ministerial Declaration does not declare the necessity to announce NOx Emission Control Area (NECA) status of the Baltic Sea as of 2016. It didn’t consider the related document either.

The Declaration states that due to the need for further technical consultations amongst some of the Contracting Parties as regards to the availability of technology to implement the Tier III NOx emission standards under MARPOL Annex VI, the application on the Baltic Sea NECA has not yet been submitted to IMO. Besides, the Declaration states that the meeting members support the idea of a designation of NOx Emission Control Area in other sea areas, particularly the neighbouring areas as larger geographic coverage of NECA would bring greater environmental benefits.


During the ministerial meeting, the HELCOM states, especially Denmark, Finland and Germany, insisted on facilitation of the document submission and on fixing the terms in HELCOM Ministerial Declaration.


Russian delegation consistently opposed the inclusion into the declaration of fixed terms for submission of HELCOM countries' joint document to IMO and called attention to absence of practically proved efficient technologies required to implement the Tier III NOx emission standards. This dedicated and tough position of the Russian delegation resulted in the absence of the mentioned terms in 2013 HELCOM Ministerial Declaration.


According to the MARPOL Convention, the NECA status requires that all vessels built from January 1, 2016 onwards and operated in the area should be equipped with diesel installations meeting the Tier III standards. The Russian Federation upholds the position that it is necessary to postpone the discussion of getting the Baltic Sea approved as a NECA zone until more improved technologies and infrastructure appear. This position was declared at HELCOM conference in Helsinki in March 2013 and supported by the majority of countries at the 65th session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in May 2013.


The session was attended by the Environment Ministers of Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Sweden as well as high officials of Germany, Poland and Europe and representatives of 12 international governmental and non-governmental organizations.
Russian delegation was headed by Nuritdin Inamov, Director of the Department of international cooperation of RF Ministry of Natural Resources.


Comments of Konstantin Palnikov, Director of Russian Federation Transport Ministry’s Department of State Policy for Marine and River Transport.

- Mr. Palnikov, what decision was made in Copenhagen as regards NECA entry into force?

- No essential decision was made and I’ll explain that.

Draft section on Shipping and activities at sea of the 2013 HELCOM Ministerial Declaration initially contained the following clause: “We «AGREE to submit the NECA application AS SOON AS POSSIBLE (before MEPC 66 or, probably, as soon as possible after MEPC 66 or before MEPC 67? This was not specified in the document), bearing in mind that the IMO decision on entry into force of NOx Emission Control Areas is expected to be taken by MEPC 66. WE encourage all contracting parties also to undertake without a delay any other measures for NOx emissions reduction».   
The Russian delegation proposed to substitute this clause with the following: “WE CONSIDER the possible submission of the application to establish the Baltic Sea as NOx Emission Control Area bearing in mind that the IMO decision on entry into force of NOx Emission Control Areas is expected to be taken by MEPC 66 and to work constructively to this end. WE ENCOURAGE ALL CONTRACTING PARTIES ALSO TO UNDERTAKE WITHOUT A DELAY ANY OTHER MEASURES FOR NOx EMISSIONS REDUCTION practicing among others public private partnership introducing the Best Environment Practices and the Best Available Technologies”.


All the participants of the HELCOM Ministerial Meeting opposed the proposal of the Russian side. The strongest opposition in discussion of draft declaration was demonstrated by Denmark, Finland, Germany and the EU representative. They consider the text proposed by Russia to be “weaker” as compared with the decision made at the 2010 Moscow Ministerial Meeting: “WE AGREE to work towards submitting, preferably by 2011, a joint proposal by the Baltic Sea countries to the IMO applying for a NOx Emission Control Area (NECA) status for the Baltic Sea, taking into account the results of the study by HELCOM on economic impacts of a Baltic Sea NECA and to welcome and support the idea of a NOx Emission Control Area in other sea areas, in particular with regard to the North Sea”.
After a long and emotional dispute, the final document contained none of the two clauses: neither that from the initial draft Declaration nor the alternative proposed by Russia.


- One of foreign publications reads that Danish Minister of the Environment commenting on the results of the HELCOM Ministerial Meeting held in Copenhagen mentions the postponement of NOx reducing requirements from 2016 to 2021.  Where does this date come from?

- This date comes from the amendments to MARPOL Annex VI.

The proposal on NOx reducing requirements meeting the “Tier III” standards to become effective in 2016 should be approved no later than in 2013 upon the results of the study on availability of technologies adequate to fulfill the above requirements. It was in May 2013 when the MEPC 65 considered this issue at its session in London. It was the session when the Russian side forwarded its well-reasoned proposals on the postponement of the effective date of new requirements. And now, IMO amendments state that the implementation of “Tier III” standards within NOx emission control areas (NECAs) is effective from 2021.

The statements in this publication apparently refer to new requirements effective from 2021 in compliance with IMO amendments which are of current concern.


- Why does Russia oppose facilitation of NECA status for the Baltic Sea?

- We have one principle argument – there are no efficient technologies in the world for shipping under new requirements related to NOx emissions. Those few technologies available in the shipping market have essential weaknesses in terms of both ecology and economic return of their introduction.
We need time to develop the existing technologies and find new technological solutions as well as time for the development of LNG bunker infrastructure.

Besides, we are sure that the NECA status of the Baltic Sea should be discussed simultaneously with the North Sea NECA. This approach would bring a much higher environmental effect. This proposal is clearly supported by Latvia and Poland.   

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