Ship owners get ballast water breathing space

The new installation timeframe approved at MEPC 71, as visualised by the American Bureau of Shipping The new installation timeframe approved at MEPC 71, as visualised by the American Bureau of Shipping

The MEPC’s decision to extend the installation timeframe for the Ballast Water Management Convention was one of the biggest – and most controversial – decisions to come out of its seventy-first sitting.

The new structure of the installation timeframe effectively offsets any time advantage ship owners and operators might gain by decoupling their IOPP renewals from their standard five-year surveys, while granting all operators a two-year postponement in the installation timeframe. Under the new scheme, the latest date for installations would be 8 September 2024, as opposed to 2022 under the current timeframe.

Ships built before the convention’s entry into force (EIF) on 8 September 2017 that require an International Oil Pollution Prevention (IOPP) certificate are to comply with the D-2 discharge standard:

  • At the first IOPP renewal survey completed on or after 8 September 2019;
  • At the first IOPP renewal after 8 September 2017, if a survey was completed between 8 September 2014 and EIF; or
  • At the second IOPP renewal after 8 September 2017, if the first survey after EIF falls before 8 September 2019 and no renewal survey was conducted in the three years prior to EIF

Ships that do not need the IOPP certificate must comply by no later than 8 September 2024. Ships constructed on or after EIF must comply immediately.

The scheme will be circulated for adoption at MEPC 72 in April next year, but has already been subject to widespread commentary from both supporters and critics. The Motorship offers a sample of those perspectives below.

Jonathan Spremulli, technical director, International Chamber of Shipping

“With the adoption of the more robust 2016 BWMS Approval Guidelines in October 2016 there could be no other decision in order to ensure protection of the marine environment. Time was needed so that systems could be available approved in accordance with the 2016 Guidelines and so that operators could purchase systems in which we can all have confidence.”

Andrew Marshall, CEO, Coldharbour Marine

“The decision to delay the implementation of the BW Convention calls into question the commitment of the maritime community to do the right thing when faced with irrefutable evidence as to the environmental damage caused by shipping. Future generations, tasked with addressing the damage to our marine environment, will surely ask what was so difficult, confusing or contentious that it took 20 years to finally get things done.”

Pam Mayerfeld, vice president marketing and sales, Turner Designs

“Ship owners could be in for a rude surprise with this delay. It might be difficult for some of the treatment system manufacturers to stay solvent, resulting in fewer treatment systems to choose from in a few years. That means less choices from which to find the ideal system for your ship, longer lead times, and higher prices. And some early adopters could find that their suppliers are no longer able to support their installed systems, penalising them greatly if they are forced to change to a new system.”

Sahan Abeysekara, technology lead – maritime and offshore, Lloyd’s Register

“The impact of the two-year delay is twofold: the direct impact resulting from non-compliance, and a delay in obtaining vital data on BWMS performance. The latter is more crucial in reviewing convention goals and BWMS approval standards.

“The reluctance [of ship owners] to purchase a first generation BWMS is understandable when systems type-approved for tougher standards are in the pipeline. And in the meantime ships still have to perform ballast water exchange.”

Maria Bruun Skipper, director and head of security, health, environment and innovation, Danish Shipping

“There is no doubt that IMO as the global regulator of shipping needs to rethink itself as organisation in order to be able to keep up with the increasingly rapid development of technology and stakeholder demands. Otherwise we will see regional regulatory initiatives or private companies moving ahead of IMO regulation.

“Meanwhile, the decision [at MEPC 71] on a new output on the agenda of the Pollution Prevention and Response subcommittee regarding implementation and enforcement of the 2020 sulphur cap is a brilliant example of the IMO's ability to adjust and adapt to the regulatory reality as well as stakeholder demands.”


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