IMO Succumbs to Ballast Water Management Pressures

By MarEx 2014-10-16 06:10:00

On Tuesday, the 67th session of IMO's Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC67) agreed to reopen the G8 guidelines of the ballast water management convention with the aim of creating a stricter testing methodology for the type approval of ballast water treatment systems. Whether or not this should be done has been debated at length at earlier meetings, but has finally been agreed to as a result of shipowner and industry group concerns.

One concern has been the treatment systems’ ability to operate in fresh water conditions. Few manufacturers have tested their systems under fresh water conditions as it was not a requirement for satisfying the G8 guidelines. U.S. regulation, however, is requiring such testing, and therefore adding regional complexity to the shipowners’ choice of treatment system.

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), supported by 12 other organisations, submitted a paper to MEPC67 indicating that the regulatory set-up of the convention did not ensure that type approved systems would actually meet the compliance tests that would be carried out by port state control authorities around the world. Therefore shipowners, acting with good intentions, may be prosecuted even though they had bought and installed very expensive equipment.

The ICS paper also called for the grandfathering of systems already installed on ships so that they could remain in use for the lifetime of the ship. This was agreed to in principle at MEPC67. Otherwise, there would be a strong disincentive for shipowners to install systems until the convention entered into force.

The UK stated at the meeting that the G8 guidelines revision should be undertaken in parallel with the study, which was also agreed on, to determine if already type approved systems were able to meet the regulation’s standards. This would enable the outcomes of both activities to be consistent with each other.

Unlike the heated debate on these topics at earlier MEPC meetings, these regulatory changes were widely agreed upon by most of the parties participating at MEPC67. However, it was stressed that the opening of the G8 guidelines for review should not delay the entry into force of the convention.

It was also announced at the MEPC meeting that Turkey has become the 43rd country to ratify the convention. This is estimated to bring the global tonnage to 32.54 percent, inching closer to the 35 percent required for the entry into force of the convention.