Ballast Water Convention Dates Likely to Slip


Published May 23, 2017 3:49 AM by Wendy Laursen

The flag states Brazil, Cook Islands, India, Liberia, Norway and the U.K. are calling for IMO to delay implementation of the ballast water management convention.

In a document submitted for discussion at MEPC 71 in July, the flag states propose a compromise for the implementation date of the convention, saying it should move from September 2017 to September 2019. The document also suggests abandoning the plan to link the compliance date for fitting equipment on specific vessels to the vessel's International Oil Pollution Prevention Certificate (IOPP) certificate renewal. If this were to happen, it would allow equipment retrofits to be undertaken up until 2024.

The likelihood of this paper going through is quite high, says ballast water management consultant Jad Mouawad. 

He is ambivalent about the proposal: “Almost all ships we are boarding now, eight ships a week, have ballast water management systems that are not functioning properly. Even new installations. This is not due to flaws in the ballast water management system or the G8 Type Approval like industry NGOs falsely claim, it is due to installation and training not getting done properly: more or less 100 percent of the time.

“When we leave those ships, the systems work properly, and the crew master the new ballast water management requirements. This point leans towards being positive to the extension proposed to 2019,” he says.

However, a large number of equipment manufacturers are struggling economically, he says. “So much so that the real options for shipowners are really becoming minimal. This is not a good development, and a postponement of the dates will effectively bring many of them to give up. 

“The U.S. Coast Guard is very restrictive now to giving extensions. We are still managing to argue for some shipowners that really have no options, but the extensions will likely not last longer than 2020 as a maximum.” This should reduce the impact of struggling equipment manufacturers, he says.

“My personal preference would be to start implementation of the convention as planned (September 8, 2017) and rather spread the installation period to 10 years instead of five, for example. This is more in line with the original intention of the regulator when the first draft of regulation B-3 of the ballast water management convention was adopted in 2004.

“Regardless of how this falls out in July at MEPC 71, my recommendation is to abolish the concept of sampling for compliance by port state control, as I see already now that this will be a huge disaster for all.”

Invasive species consultant Dr Rob Hilliard says no one should be surprised if the implementation date gets pushed back. He agrees that there are a number of issues still to be resolved, including the very low number of U.S.-compliant systems that will be available by September 8.  

“Apart from the reasons pushed by Intercargo, BIMCO and other shipping associations, there will be many quietly supportive port states owing to their incomplete preparedness for national implementation - including procedures and training for port state control inspection and compliance monitoring as well as tank sediment reception and disposal.  

“But unlike MEPC 70, there will be few excuses for MEPC 71 not resolving a definitive pathway to practical implementation. For example, the recent proposed 'compromise' and other submissions will help the July discussions identify the best way forward, the IOPP-linkage problem is now well understood and a number of previously uncompleted tasks should be ready for approval such as the practical 'How to Do It' manual.”

The flag states proposing the compromise say that a timely and predictable phase-in schedule would assist manufacturers, yards, classification societies and others in preparing for the entry into force of the convention. They accept that the proposal is a modification of views expressed during MEPC 70, but have made it in the spirit of cooperation.