MEPC Must Implement Changes to MARPOL Annex VI


Oceanic Technical Solutions has welcomed the decision by the United Nations to amend the Montreal Protocol to reduce the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in air conditioning and refrigeration systems, but has warned the shipping industry could be left in the cold if the International Maritime Organisation fails to implement similar measures.

Speaking prior to the Marine Environment Protection Committee’s 70th session, which meets in London next week, Oceanic Technical Solutions’ managing director Robert Chesters said: “World leaders are now addressing the correlation between climate change and the use of HFCs, so it is important that IMO follows this lead.

“We are pleased that the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from ships is on the IMO agenda and it is encouraging to note that a Working Group has been established to look at ways of reducing GHGs. However, I hope that along with the focus on CO2 emissions consideration is given to HFC refrigerants that are vented to atmosphere annually.

“A consideration is that for every kilo of R404A refrigerant vented to atmosphere this is the equivalent of 3922 kilos of CO2, so HFCs must be discussed. I hope a decision is made to amend MARPOL Annex VI in line with the revised Montreal Protocol commitments.”

The current MARPOL Annex VI requirement on HFC’s is focused largely around the recording or refrigerant consumption and the means to handle refrigerants in a safe manner.

“Surely the next stage of Annex VI is to address the containment of refrigerants, as a reduction in the amount of HFC that is vented to atmosphere will have a direct impact on the environment,” said Chesters 

During negotiations, last week in Kigali, Rwanda, 197 signatories to the Montreal Protocol agreed to gradually phase out the use of HFCs in a move that could prevent up to 0.5°C of global warming by the end of this century.

Taking seven years to iron out a deal, the Kigali agreement concluded that developed countries will start to phase down the use of HFCs from 2019, reducing consumption to 15 to 20 per cent of current levels by the late 2040s. Developing countries will follow with a freeze of HFCs consumption levels in 2024, with some countries freezing consumption in 2028. 

“The agreement will have a positive impact on reducing anthropogenic climate change but the shipping industry, already facing a European-wide phase out of HFCs with the EU Regulations on Fluorinated Greenhouse Gases (F-Gas), could struggle with inflated prices because of the phase down,” warned Chesters.

HFCs are currently the world’s fastest growing greenhouse gases, their emissions increasing by up to 10 per cent each year. They are also claimed to be one of the most powerful, trapping thousands of times more heat in the Earth’s atmosphere than carbon dioxide (CO2).

“While the Kigali agreement has made provision for grants to be made available for the research and development of affordable HFC alternatives, there are currently few ‘green’ refrigerants on the market that have the requisite performance properties as R22 or other controlled HFCs,” said Chesters.

Based on the type and design of direct expansion plants in operation aboard most vessels, Oceanic Technical Solutions recommends that, until new gases have been developed and are readily available the lower GWP refrigerants such as R407F or R417A are adopted as the “greener option” for shipping as these closely match the cooling capacity, oil carrying properties and running parameters of commonly used marine refrigerants in scope for phase out.

“These have a relatively low global warming potential (GWP) and are considered a suitable replacement for R22 R404A and R507, typical marine refrigerants that have a GWP above 2500 and which will be outlawed when the EU-wide service ban on these systems enters into force in 2020.

“Alternatives that do not deplete the ozone layer or have a smaller impact on the climate, such as ammonia or carbon dioxide, are being explored,” said Chesters, “as are more efficient air-conditioning and refrigeration systems. But one way of immediately reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases to atmosphere is to ensure the refrigeration plant is completely gas-tight and leak free.”

Adopted in 1987, the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer is the most successful UN environmental agreement in history. Ratified by 197 parties, it has led to a 98 per cent decrease in the production and use of ozone-damaging chemicals.


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