Passenger vessels typically have low-volume ballast requirements, but they are subject to the same installation complexities and compliance uncertainty as the shipping industry at large when it comes to the implementation of the IMO Ballast Water Management Convention.
Many additionally come under the environmental spotlight as a result of voyages that take them to extremely sensitive environments. It’s not surprising then that the cruise sector has been a forerunner in the development and adoption of ballast water treatment systems. The cruise ship Regal Princess saw the world’s first commercial installation of a treatment system by equipment manufacturer Optimarin in 2000, and in 2003, Coral Princess was fitted with a Hyde Guardian system. Royal Caribbean International was also an early entrant with the installation of a Hyde Guardian system on Mercury in 2007.
Since that time, the Convention has been plagued with technical issues, and the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) has worked at IMO to help resolve them. MarEx spoke to Bud Darr, CLIA Senior Vice President for Technical and Regulatory Affairs, about where the industry stands today on the issue of ballast water treatment.
Is the industry is ready for the ballast water management convention?
The cruise industry looks forward to the next chapter in the ballast water discussion as the Convention is ultimately brought into effect after more than twelve years since adoption at IMO. CLIA cruise line members were among those early movers who invested in first generation ballast water management systems, an investment which was a critical component to the global community’s understanding of how these systems perform against the Convention’s standards.
This understanding also informs the IMO’s ongoing review and revision to the guidelines for type approval of ballast water management systems. Like others in the maritime sector, CLIA and its members are optimistic that revised guidelines will provide all shipowners faced with buying and installing new systems the confidence that the systems will work reliably and comply with the Convention discharge standard in any ports and waters they may call.
What are the key issues for cruise lines?
CLIA cruise line members want to do the right thing to ensure compliance with the Convention when it enters into force. To date, however, it has not been completely clear what exactly is the right thing to do in light of the varied effectiveness of a number of the first generation ballast water management systems, the ongoing uncertainty in the revisions to the IMO guidelines for type approval, and the recognition that the United States imposes a more strict standard that is a controlling factor for many ships, even though there are no systems type-approved to meet the U.S. standard.
Accordingly, key issues for cruise lines include resolving uncertainty in procurement and installation decisions, management of approval extensions within the U.S. operating area for alternate systems, and seeking assurance that those cruise lines that installed first generation equipment are not penalized.
Are Cruise Lines continuing to invest in ballast water treatment systems?
CLIA cruise line members must comply with all applicable laws and regulations wherever they operate, and this includes ballast water requirements. How cruise lines comply and any decision to install a specific ballast water management technology remain with each shipowner. Some cruise lines have already invested in systems, some will make purchase and installation decisions when the technology is available that can perform against applicable standards, while others are innovating to engineer the need for ballast water management out of new ship designs.
What needs to be done now and once the convention enters into force?
Early adopters of first-generation IMO type-approved systems must continue to be provided assurance that they will not be penalized. As the revised guidelines for type-approved systems come on line, and systems are available to meet that standard, shipowners should be strongly encouraged to install such systems in order to reduce the number of ships that would need appropriate protections from penalization.
Investing in systems that can meet the requirements of the Convention, even if that means delaying implementation for a reasonable period of time, is far more preferable than expecting shipowners to make new investments in systems that may not be fit for purpose.
CLIA expects these issues to continue to be discussed within the Marine Environment Protection Committee at IMO in October, and within associated working group deliberations.
The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.