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EU abandons joint stance on NOx ahead of IMO summit

The EU Commission wanted a common foothold against Russia's efforts to postpone the NOx regulations to 2021, but the EU has now abanded a joint stance at the IMO summit in late March, according to ShippingWatch's sources.

Photo: Harald Pettersen

It will be each member to itself when the IMO's environmental committee meets in the last week of March to debate Russia's proposal to push the NOx regulations from 2016 to 2021. This has come to ShippingWatch's attention after the EU Commission has been working for a long time to reach a joint EU position in an attempt to disrupt the Russian efforts - efforts that are supported by several Eu countries, including Baltic nations and Poland, but also Malta, Cyprus, and Greece.

According to the Commission, member states are obligated to support and defend the agreement that was reached in 2008 regarding the Tier III NOx regulations, and the Commission encourages all member states to not support Russia's attempts to postpone the implementation date of the regulations. And in order to bring everyone on board a joint stance ahead of the meeting in late March, when the postponement is onthe agenda, the Commission has proposed to invoke the EU Competence, which means that member states are barred from voting against existing EU legislation in international contexts.

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The proposal will be treated by the Council of Transport Ministers on Friday, but according to ShippingWatch's information the Council will make a decision to no longer pursue a joint stance on the matter. Instead, the individual member states will have to decide whether they are for or against the proposal.

Sources close to the process describe the decision as "a disastrous signal to the industry," if the process results in a postponement of the NOx regulations.

"From a political standpoint this is a disastrous signal to the industry," they say.

Will act as watchdog

On Friday March 7th the so-called Coreper committee met to discuss the Commission's suggestion to, among other things, invoke the EU Competence to pressure the EU countries that are supporting Russia's postponement efforts to get back in line.

But several sources reveal that this notion was not adopted, as there is still no EU legislation relating to NOx. But the NEC (National Emission Ceiling) Directive, which puts a limit to emissions within the EU, could be used, according to the Commission, and in this light the Council of Ministers is committed to the matter, says the Commission. As such, it was more a matter of principle at Friday's meeting than an actual matter of whether there was support for the content of the proposal.

It was however noted that the Council does not look set to reject the Commission's proposal, it mere declines to take the process further. And going forward, this means that the Commission will scrutinize the decisions reached at the coming meeting of the IMO's environmental committee in effort to discern what the various member states intend to do. The Commission could ultimately decide to summon countries to the EU Court if they vote in favor of Russia's proposed postponement, sources say.

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