Ballast Water Convention on the brink - US warning

Nov 27 2015

As a result of Indonesia signing up to the Ballast Water Management Convention (BWMC) this week, the IMO has announced that the convention will enter into force worldwide from 24th November, 2016, providing certain criteria are met.

Ratification is still subject to IMO’s verification of the gross tonnage data relating to Indonesia’s registered fleet. Morocco has also signed on the dotted line and Finland was expected to do so imminently.  

As a result, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) has warned that the IMO should finalise the revision of the G8 Type Approval Guidelines as soon as possible, in order to ensure that shipowners can have absolute confidence that the expensive equipment they will soon have to install will be effective in treating ballast water conditions normally encountered during worldwide operations and be regarded as fully compliant during Port State Control inspections.  

The fixing of a definite implementation date, after so many years of delay, gives shipowners some of the certainty needed to make important decisions about whether to refit the new mandatory treatment equipment or otherwise to start sending ships for early recycling, the ICS said.   

However, the entry into force of the new IMO regime does not resolve the extreme difficulties that still exist in the US. There is still great uncertainty with respect to the more stringent US approval regime for treatment equipment, which started to be enforced in January, 2014 (the US not being a party to the IMO Convention). (See Tanker Operator Nov/Dec issue written before the BWMC’s ratification).

The US regulations require all ships that discharge ballast water in domestic waters to use a treatment system approved by the Coast Guard. However, as no systems have yet been approved, ships already required to comply with the US regulations have either been granted extensions to the dates for fitting the required treatment systems or else permitted to install a USCG accepted Alternate Management System (AMS) - in practice a system type-approved in accordance with the current IMO Guidelines. 

An AMS will only be accepted for operation for five years, after which time a fully USCG approved system must be installed. But the USCG does not guarantee that an AMS will be subsequently granted full approval. Hence shipowners that may have installed an AMS in good faith, at a cost of between $1-5 mill per ship, might then have to replace the system completely after only five years. 

This is a particular concern for operators that have installed ultra-violet (UV) systems, the ICS warned.

There are over 50 treatment systems approved under the current IMO regime, but worryingly fewer than 20 manufacturers have so far indicated their intention to submit their systems for US approval. 

The conflicting IMO and US requirements, when combined with the complete lack of systems fully approved by the USCG, could produce an impossible situation in which some ships might not be able to operate in US waters when the IMO Convention enters into force in 2016.

Evoqua Water Technologies and Drew Marine have sign a partnership agreement to provide a full compliance package for ballast water management.

The partnership will centre around Evoqua’s patented SeaCURE ballast water management system (BWMS). Both parties will collaborate during the SeaCURE BWMS sales process for newbuildings and retrofits.

Drew Marine will then be responsible for the retrofit engineering, design and installation management of the systems and will provide after sales service and lifetime compliance assurance in conjunction with Evoqua’s technology team. 

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