On 7 July this year, the IMO MEPC approved draft amendments to the Ballast Water Management Convention, setting out new deadlines for compliance with the D-2 discharge standard, which fixes the date by which ballast water treatment systems must be installed. These amendments effectively add two years to the global installation process, although certain requirements of the convention must still be complied with by 8 September 2017. In particular, the D-1 Standard covering ballast water exchange still requires compliance.
The Norwegian P&I Club, Gard, points out that: “Despite the IMO’s recent agreement to delay the deadline for some vessels to comply, the deadline for D-1 is non-negotiable, as are the convention’s requirements covering the ballast water management documentation to be carried onboard.”
For existing vessels, MEPC has decided that the phase-in period for ballast water system retrofits will start on 8 September 2019, and as a result, the date by which all ships must have a ballast water treatment system installed has been put back from 2022 to 2024. The IMO decision does not have any impact on the US Coast Guard (USGC) rules regarding ballast water treatment systems, which remain unchanged. For ships trading to the US, therefore, the urgency for BWT system retrofits remains.
The MEPC decision has been warmly welcomed by the shipping industry generally, but condemned by equipment manufacturers and environmentalists. Alfonso Castillero, chief commercial officer of the Liberian International Ship & Corporate Registry (LISCR), the US-based manager of the Liberian Registry, says: “Liberia was one of the first administrations to ratify the convention and is entirely committed to its effective and smooth implementation. However, the existence of important practical and technical considerations compelled it to seek the support of other stakeholders in securing an equitable implementation date for the BWM Convention. With just two months before the BWMC enters into force, the decision is timely and will ensure that the necessary pieces are in place for shipping and other stakeholders to effectively and smoothly implement the convention, with consequent positive implications for the protection of the marine environment.”
The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) has similarly welcomed the IMO decision to adjust the implementation dates of the IMO Ballast Water Management Convention. ICS policy director, Simon Bennett, commented: “This is a victory for common sense that will allow shipping companies to identify and invest in far more robust technology to the benefit of the environment.”
ICS says that existing ships will now be able to install equipment that is type–approved in accordance with the more stringent standards that IMO adopted in 2016. The industry should therefore have greater confidence that the systems ships are required to install will indeed be fit for purpose in all operating conditions worldwide, which, it claims, was not the case with several of the systems approved using the old IMO guidelines. “The process leading up to the entry into the force of the Ballast Convention has been difficult and fraught,” said Bennett. “But as a result of the decision by IMO, the industry now has the clarity it needs to get on with the job and make the global implementation of this important piece of legislation a success.”
Manufacturers of ballast water treatment systems believe that the delay is unfair and unwarranted, as effective systems already exist, and it will have significant effects on their business. Having invested heavily in research and development in expectation of orders starting to build up this year, many may find it hard to continue to carry on, given cash flow pressures.
Calgon Carbon Corporation, whose Hyde Marine division is a leading player, issued a statement setting out its negative reaction to the amendment made by MEPC to the implementation schedule. “We are disappointed that full compliance with regulations to protect the world’s marine ecosystems has yet again been delayed. Every day, millions of gallons of untreated and potentially harmful ballast water are discharged into ports around the world, even though effective treatment solutions are ready and available,” said Randy Dearth, chairman, president and chief executive of Calgon Carbon Corporation.
The company expects the amendment to the convention implementation schedule will dampen the pace of short-term market demand growth for ballast water treatment systems. Dearth adds: “This amendment will undoubtedly negatively impact the numerous suppliers that lack the financial strength and backing to endure this latest delay. We expect Hyde Marine to remain a key supplier in this space and that this action will not affect our market presence or our ability to provide, deliver, install, and service the Hyde Guardian Gold product.”
Christophe Tytgat, secretary general of Sea Europe and the European Community of Shipyards Association (CESA) has pointed out that both shipyards and equipment manufacturers have made significant investments to prepare for retrofits, to produce and fit ballast water management systems and ensure that these systems are tested and certified. He described the delay as being “a blow for all maritime equipment manufacturers that have done what they were invited to do: invest in ballast water management systems for ships to protect the marine environment for this and future generations.”
On the upside, it seems that IMO has now firmly fixed a timescale for retrofit implementation which all owners have significant notice of, and there will be no further excuse for non-compliance, or failure to prepare for the necessary investment in ballast water treatment technology. There simply seems no scope for further delays, which while not what the equipment and yard sector was looking for, is perhaps a silver lining.