BWMC to become effective next week

Sep 06 2019

With all the attention being given to IMO2020, it would be easy to forget that there is another far-reaching IMO regulation that will become effective even before the low sulfur cap, Poten & Partners warned in an industry comment.

Starting 8th September, the IMO’s Ballast Water Management Convention (BWMC) will apply to all new and existing vessels worldwide.


The shipping industry has been addressing the problem of invasive species in ballast water since the early 1990s. After years of negotiations among member countries, the IMO adopted the BWMC in February, 2004 and it entered into force in September, 2017.


The convention has two standards - D-1 and D-2.


D-1 requires that vessels exchange ballast water in open seas, at least 200 miles from the coast, while D-2 requires the installation of a ballast water management system (BWMS).


Existing vessels could comply with the convention using the ballast water exchange (D-1) for a transitional period through 8th September, 2019. However, new vessels, constructed after 8th September, 2017, could only comply using standard D-2, ie, they needed to have an approved BWMS installed.


After 8th September this year, all vessels will need to install an approved BWMS, at the latest by the vessel’s next renewal of its International Oil Pollution Prevention (IOPP) certificate.


All of the different systems types available have their pros and cons and what system is chosen depends on the vessel size, available space on board and the trading area, among other things. Class society DNV GL estimated that around 25% of the global fleet is already fitted with a BWMS, which means that the remaining 75% of vessels employed in international trade will need to install a system within the next five years, Poten said.


According to DNV GL, these installations will not be evenly distributed. A significant number of owners renewed their IOPP certificate in 2017 in advance of the implementation of the BWMC. By de-coupling the certificate renewal from the vessel’s special survey cycle, owners effectively give themselves another five years for compliance.


On this basis, the class society expects that the bulk of the BWMS installations (up to 50%) could take place in 2022 (five years after 2017). However, the US Coast Guard (USCG) regulations may change the goal posts.


USCG regulations are generally tighter, but many of the BWTS systems currently on the market are both IMO and USCG approved. The question remains: what will owners decide? New vessels will most likely be already equipped with an approved system or install a BWMS at the next drydock - maybe coinciding with a scrubber retrofit.


Owners of old vessels (>20 years) will probably not spend money on a BWMS and scrap their vessel(s) when the next special survey is due. Others may install a cheap system (or use chemicals) to comply with the IMO rules, but will not be able to trade their vessels in US waters, otherwise they will run foul of the tighter USCG regulations.


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