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Research fund proposal receives mixed response from IMO delegates

A generally positive response to the broad idea of establishing an industry research & development body was tempered by legal concerns, including financial considerations over fund control and dissemination and the considerations over intellectual property rights.

Proposals from industry bodies, including the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) to fund an industry supported R&D programme through the levy of a US$2/tonne charge on the price of bunker fuel. According to the proposal, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) would manage the fund.

Complex issues around what the sponsors of the body call the International Maritime Research & Development Board (IMRB) surround the implementation of the development of the board, including legal, financial, economic and property rights remain to be discussed.

Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) chairman, Hideaki Saito summed up the issues, “A number of countries want to discuss the issue in broader terms at MEPC 76, while others were concerned on the control of the fund and who would own the intellectual property rights of technology developed by the fund.”

A further consideration was raised by delegates from the Pacific islands and some Latin American states, which wanted an impact assessment to be made in order to see what the impact would be on states that were further away from manufacturing centres that would be disproportionately affected by the measure.

Another concern by some member states was that the proposal is a market-based measure, and that this may prejudice further measures for carbon pricing in the future. A view that was refuted by the ICS.

Environmental organisations and some member states noted that the proposal does not go nearly far enough to meet the requirements for reducing emissions and as such they cannot support the proposal.

Chairman Saito has suggested that groups meet inter-sessionally to develop concrete proposals that will be discussed at next year’s MEPC 76.

The IMRB proposal was sponsored by ICS, BIMCO, Cruise Lines International Association, Interferry, Intertanko, the International Parcel Tanker Associations and the World Shipping Council.

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