Ship owners differ on ratification of Ballast Water Convention

09 May 2015, Lagos- Ship owners across the globe have differed with the global maritime watch dog, the International Maritime organisation (IMO) on the ratification of the Ballast Water Management (BWM) Convention.

Crude oil vessel.

Crude oil vessel.

The ship owners said IMO, which has its headquarters in London, United Kingdom, should go ahead with its plans to ratify the BWM Convention if there is no realistic implementation schedule that recognises the timetable for the United States of America (USA) type-approved Ballast Water Management Systems (BWMS) to be available in sufficient quantities.

The ship owners, under the auspices of Round Table (RT) of International Shipping Organisations (comprising BIMCO, the International Chamber of Shipping, Intercargo and INTERTANKO), believe that the resulting dilemma would force the international shipping industry to spend millions of dollars on BWMS that may not achieve USA type-approval and therefore will need to be replaced in a short period of time.

The warning of the ship owners is coming on the heels of the RT’s expectation that the BWM Convention will be ratified soon and come into force in 2016.

According to them, they will be required to spend up to $5 million to install a BWMS on each of their ships, and it is estimated that there are 50,000 ships that require to be fitted with BWMS over a five year period. However, this may also create an impossible situation for ships that trade to the United States of America where unilateral national regulation is already in force. The USA regulations ultimately require all ships that discharge ballast into USA waters (12 miles) to treat this through a USA Coast Guard (USCG) approved BWMS.

The ship owners said presently there are a number of BWMS in the USCG testing and approval process, but none has received type approval. The RT has urged the US Coast Guard to approve as many ballast water management systems as possible, as soon as possible and provide a pragmatic schedule for the installation of such equipment.

There are 54 BWMS approved under the IMO regime, but only 17 manufacturers have indicated an intent to submit their system for USCG approval testing, the RT said.

According to RT, there is no guarantee that systems submitted will gain approval under the stringent USA testing regime; consequentially, when the IMO convention enters into force, ship operators trading to the US will be forced to fit a BWMS that may never achieve USCG type approval. If the chosen system does not obtain USCG approval, it will have to be replaced within 5 years in order to continue to trade to the USA. A ship owner who wants to comply with international and national ballast water management requirements, therefore faces a position of having to possibly invest twice in a BWMS.

As a way out of the imbroglio, the RT urged IMO member states to take what they described as a “potentially very costly issue” into account when deliberating ballast water management issues at the upcoming 68th session of the IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee.

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