The Intl Chamber of Shipping (ICS) is calling for the successful implementation of the Intl Maritime Organization (IMO) Ballast Water Management (BWM) Convention as this comes into force 8 September 2017.

ICS Chairman Esben Poulsson estimates US$100-billion may be needed to install new ballast water treatment system required by law. He advises shipowners, equipment manufacturers and governments to co-operate to ensure this new regulatory regime is properly implemented.

A revised IMO type-approval standards was adopted in 2016, even though this is not yet a mandatory requirement. ICS welcomes though the IMO decision made in July  “to adjust the implementation dates of the Convention so that existing ships (constructed before 8 Sept) will not be required to install treatment systems until their first International Oil Pollution Prevention (IOPP) renewal survey after 8 September 2019.

ICS views.

The pragmatic approach by IMO Member States supports the ICS view it is not logical to require some 40,000 ships to retrofit and comply until they can be fitted with systems under the more stringent standards of the Convention.

ICS was ambivalent on encouraging to ratify the BWM Convention due to serious issues not fully resolved.  Now that the Convention has entered into force, (and IMO’s acceptance of ICS points), ICS is encouraging IMO Member States to ratify as soon as possible.

The IMO BWM Convention is on the problem of invasive marine organisms damaging local ecosystems coming from ships ballast tanks. When this Convention was adopted in 2004,    there was no technology to treat millions of gallons of ballast water except laboratory models.

By October 2016, on an industry campaign led by ICS, the IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) was adopted. It is a more robust type-approval standards included in the mandatory Code for Approval of Ballast Water Management Systems – replacing the ‘G8’ Guidelines found wanting by shipowners in key areas.

However, they will not become mandatory for new system approvals until 28 October 2018 and only systems being installed after October 2020 will be required to have been approved in accordance with the new Code.

ICS sources views from responses on its ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ (FAQs) found on the ICS website: http://www.ics-shipping.org/docs/default-source/resources/environmental-protection/ballast-water-management—frequently-asked-questions-(faqs).pdf?sfvrsn=4

Shipping companies have been advised by ICS in these FAQs to put pressure on manufacturers to install only treatment systems certified in accordance with the revised IMO type-approval standards adopted in 2016.

ICS is the principal international trade association for shipowners and operators, concerned with all technical, legal employment affairs and policy issues that may affect international shipping. Membership comprises national shipowners’ associations in Asia, Europe and the Americas which members operate over 80% of the world’s merchant tonnage.

Capacity problems.

The International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments (BWM Convention) requires ships to manage their ballast water to remove, render harmless, or avoid the uptake or discharge of aquatic organisms and pathogens within ballast water and sediments.

But manufacture of approved treatment systems may be humongous in so short a timeframe. Yards may be inadequate, so are qualified technicians in the area. Lost chartering opportunities may impact in an industry already on a tailspin. Worst, if the ships are approaching the end of their typical 25-year life.

IMO optimism.

The BWM Convention is “… a landmark step towards halting the spread of invasive aquatic species, which can cause havoc for local ecosystems, affect biodiversity and lead to substantial economic loss,” says IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim.

He adds, “(W)e are now addressing what has been recognized as one of the greatest threats to the ecological and the economic well-being of the planet. Invasive species are causing enormous damage to biodiversity… natural riches of the earth… cause direct and indirect health effects and the damage to the environment is often irreversible.

Record book.

Ballast water is routinely taken on by ships for stability and structural integrity. It can contain thousands of aquatic microbes, algae and animals which are then carried across the world’s oceans and released into ecosystems where they are not native.

Untreated ballast water released could introduce new invasive aquatic species. Expanded ship trade has increased the likelihood of invasive species being released; hundreds of invasions have already taken place, sometimes with devastating consequences for the local ecosystem, economy and infrastructure.

The BWM Convention requires all ships in international trade to manage their ballast water and sediments, according to a ship-specific ballast water management plan. All ships must carry a ballast water record book and an International Ballast Water Management Certificate.

Standard and option.

Initially, there will be two standards and two options:

  • D-1 standard, requires ships to exchange their ballast water in open seas. Ideally, this means at least 200 nautical miles from land and in water at least 200 metres deep. With this, fewer organisms will survive; ships less likely to introduce harmful species when they release the ballast water.
  • D-2, a performance standard which specifies the maximum amount of viable organisms allowed to be discharged, including specified indicator microbes harmful to human health.

New ships must meet the D-2 standard from today while existing ships must initially meet the D-1 standard. An implementation timetable for the D-2 standard has been agreed, based on the date of the ship’s International Oil Pollution Prevention Certificate (IOPPC) renewal survey, which must be undertaken at least every five years.

Eventually, all ships will have to conform to the D-2 standard. For most ships, this involves installing special, expensive equipment.