MEPC Reviews Ballast Water Bottleneck

Shipowners could find out this week whether they will receive some leniency over deadlines to install ballast-water treatment technologies.

Shipping is facing an expensive bottleneck when the ballast water convention comes into force.

The convention, written and agreed by the members of the International Maritime Organization in 2004, states that when it does come into force certain deadlines become active.

When the convention eventually comes into force — a year after administrations representing an additional 6% of the global fleet have ratified it — thousands of ships will need to comply with it.

Owners will have to install thousands of expensive treatment systems across the world’s fleet unless discussions at this week’s IMO marine environment protection committee go in their favour and produce agreement to adopt a more phased approach.

Shipowners’ associations, including the International Chamber of Shipping, are concerned that the convention is unable to allow a more phased-in approach.

They also worry about the rules applying to older vessels nearing the end of their trading life. There is no grandfathering clause in the ballast-water convention, ie a clause that allows some vessel types to be exempt from compliance.

ICS has suggested exemption, for example, for older very large crude carriers that will need the largest, most expensive system to be installed, arguing that the regulation could force owners to scrap perfectly sound tonnage.

The week-long MEPC meeting will also hear of a range of additional treatment systems that have been type-approved on behalf of flag administrations.

One of the stumbling blocks when the ballast water convention was agreed was the lack of treatment systems that had been type-approved for use at sea.

Some flag states were unable to ratify a convention that had no legal means of compliance.

With more than 30 systems now approved, there has been concern in the industry over how reliable the systems will prove once they have been installed.

Guidelines have been written on system performance and to help port state control to understand the biological means to test ballast water to see how clean it is to determine whether the system and the ship comply with the rules.

The MEPC meeting, which kicked off yesterday, will also discuss the issue of monitoring, reporting and verification of carbon dioxide emissions.

The ICS and other shipowners’ representatives worry that this proposal may become a tool for regions to bring in confusing market-based measures that aim to curb CO2 emissions.

For more maritime news see Lloyd’s List

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