Another Ballast Water Management Convention Accession...


By Wendy Laursen 2016-05-26 20:13:29

The state of Saint Lucia acceded to four IMO treaties, including the Ballast Water Management Convention, on May 26, bringing the number of states party to the Ballast Water Management Convention to 50.

The conditions for entry into force are not yet bet, because Saint Lucia’s action leaves the tonnage from these 50 states still only representing 34.81 percent of the world's merchant fleet tonnage, not the 35 percent required.

Serious Challenges

Despite, its imminent entry into force, issues remain. The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), in its newly published 2016 Annual Review, said the convention’s entry into force will present ship operators with a serious challenge because of the expected lack of ship yard capacity needed to retrofit the expensive new treatment equipment (over a five year period) on around 70,000 ships. 

“The main reason why governments have been so reluctant to ratify the convention has been due to a lack of confidence in the IMO type-approval process and whether, among many other technical questions, the treatment equipment approved in line with current IMO guidelines would actually work to the satisfaction of port state control authorities,” states the report. Revised G8 type-approval guidelines are scheduled for adoption by IMO in October 2016. 

“The eventual entry into force of the convention, after so many years of delay, should at least give shipowners some of the certainty needed to make important decisions about whether to refit the new mandatory treatment equipment or, because of the prohibitive cost, send older ships for early recycling,” states ICS. 

However, the entry into force of the new IMO regime will not resolve the difficulties that exist for shipowners trading to the United States. There is still great uncertainty with respect to the more stringent U.S. approval regime for treatment equipment.

The U.S. “Stretch”

Earlier this month, the U.S. Coast Guard announced that technology to achieve a significant improvement in ballast water treatment efficacy, beyond current regulation, cannot yet be practicably implemented. The U.S. Coast Guard stated that it requires credible data from standardized testing performed independently of the developer/manufacturer and under rigorous quality assurance and quality control procedures. Such testing is now in progress under the Coast Guard's type approval program, but to date, no systems have completed the testing and submitted the requisite data to the Coast Guard.

Rear Admiral Paul Thomas, assistant commandant for prevention policy at the U.S. Coast Guard has spoken out on the industry’s ballast water management angst, stressing the need for industry innovation to help drive environmental change.

“Many in the shipping industry have called for measures to ensure that never again are we put in a position where regulations call for technology that doesn’t yet exist, or type approval requirements that cannot be met by commercially- available technology,” he says. “However, the very nature of the environmental challenges facing the shipping industry not only precludes the elimination of such dilemmas – it demands them.

“Regulation can provide the critical forcing function that drives innovation and encourages technological developments to meet the environmental challenges. This occurs when regulations set ‘stretch’ goals and incentivize investment to meet those goals. Regulations that embrace the status quo and codify existing commercially-available technology only serve to stifle innovation and prevent industry from meeting environmental challenges.”

He continues: “Regulations that set stretch goals and demand robust type approval requirements to drive innovation and investment must also provide flexibility to ensure the right balance between the possible and the practical. U.S. Coast Guard ballast water regulations provide that balance by extending the compliance deadline when appropriate alternative mitigation measures are in place – even while the cutting-edge technology is under development.”

Demanding Conditions

Equipment manufacturers and engineering companies continue to “stretch.” Earlier this month, for example, Ecochlor completed all the required land-based and shipboard testing at the Golden Bear Facility in the U.S. in preparation for submission of the application for U.S. Coast Guard type approval. The system was verified in three salinities as anticipated to be required by the updated G8 guidelines.

Last month, OceanSaver reported that it had finalized all the testing required for the U.S. Coast Guard type approval. In close cooperation with shipowner CSL, OceanSaver said it successfully concluded the testing which included operating in a wide range of demanding conditions along the Pacific Coast of North America.


Time will tell whether the equipment manufacturers and regulators can resolve the issues to the satisfaction of shipowners. Throughout 2016, ICS said it will be working with the IMO to impress upon the United States the importance of coming to a pragmatic solution to the differences between the convention and the U.S.’s unilateral requirements. “Otherwise, once the IMO convention finally enters into force, the shipping industry will be faced with chaos.”

MarEx has covered a range of ballast water management issues over the last two months:

Ballast Water: The Boy Who Cried Wolf
Stricter Ballast Water Discharge Standards Not Practical
Ballast Water Management: Stretching the Goals
Ballast Water Treatment: The Regrowth Problem
Ballast Water: Potential Discrimination on the Great Lakes
Ballast Water: Convention Not Good Enough for the Arctic?
Ballast Water Treatment: Self Monitoring
Ballast Water Treatment: IMO's Regulation Uncertainty
U.S. Debates "Ridiculous" Ballast Water Situation
Ballast Water Treatment: More Dead Than Alive