IMO moves forward towards global mandatory ballast water treatment

Ballast Water Convention and Code for Approval For Ballast Water Management Systems will enter into force next year

From 17 to the 28th of October 2016, on-going negotiations within the International Maritime Organization (IMO) have finally provided clarity for the maritime industry. The Ballast Water Management (BWM) Convention and the revised and finalized G8 Guidelines are the leading global policy documents at the moment of entry into force September 2017. Following an intense meeting of an inter-sessional ballast water working group, the subsequent Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC) agreed to adopt the aforementioned G8 Guidelines as a mandatory  ‘Code for approval of ballast water management systems’. Also, a three-step approach of data gathering, analysis and review was agreed for the process after the Convention’s entry into force in September 2017.

The following ‘roadmap’ was established for the further review process:

  • A proposal by a number of maritime industry NGO’s and member states to extend the requirements of B-3 (mandatory dates to have an approved ballast water management system- BWMS- on board) will be considered at the next MEPC session in the spring of 2017. Amendments can not enter into force before the entry into force date of the Convention;
  • ‘Early Movers’ who strive to comply with the Convention as soon as possible should not be penalized in any way;
  • Guidance will be developed on contingency measures from both the ship (measures to be taken in case of malfunctioning BWMS) and the port side (treatment ashore requested by the port authority);
  • The trial period for sampling and analysis of ballast water in accordance with the G2 Guidelines (Guidelines For Ballast Water Sampling) will be extended;
  • The ‘Same Risk Area’ concept will be further developed. Such possible framework for exempting ships from treatment must contain elements such as species monitoring, selection of target species and definition of geographical limits.

After the decisive ratification of Finland this September, the BWM Convention is currently ratified by 53 states representing 53.28 % of the world’s tonnage. The number of BWMS with IMO type approval now totals 69.  

Efficacy monitoring of G2 Guidelines crucial for effective implementation

The MEA Innovator test vesselData gathering from ships that have installed a BWMS on-board is crucial for a successful and effective implementation of the Convention. Long-term efficacy of treatment technologies, development of practical and reliable monitoring of BWMS in port and transparency are keywords in the process. It was agreed that port authorities, class societies and ship owners and test facilities should work together to gather valuable data. Only in this case, the designated ‘trial period’ can further ensure effective implementation.  In this respect, the principle of ‘non penalization’ is also crucial for receiving more input from the maritime industry. A righteous condition of ship owners to cooperate in this field is that results of efficacy monitoring will not be used for inspection purposes. Besides the IMO regulations and guidelines, the evolving US policy in the field of ballast water offers an additional challenge for the maritime industry. As test facility and laboratory, MEA-nl strives to play a crucial role in the successful implementation of these international regulations among all the branches of the maritime industry. Working with ship owners to gather data about BWMS efficacy – for both the short and long term- is among MEA-nl’s highest priorities.