IMO buckles before shipping lobby over BWM Convention

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News that the implementation schedule for the fitting of ballast water systems has been deferred for two years induced a collective sigh of relief among shipowners around the world last week. But was it the right thing to do? And how damaged is the IMO reputation as charges of forcing through regulation when the technology to comply is non-existent are raised against the regulatory body?

The decision arrived at during the 71st session of the MEPC, means that existing ships will now have until their first or second MARPOL Annex I IOPCC renewal survey after 8 September 2019 to install a ballast water management system, depending on when the survey is due. The move effectively kicks a multi-billion dollar can into the grass for a couple more years.

Following the adjustment to the implementation date the International Chamber of Shipping, hailed it as 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.”

The Liberian Registry, which claims to be one of the main movers behind persuading IMO to defer implementation was also celebrated the breakthrough.

“Liberia was one of the first administrations to ratify the convention, and is entirely committed to its effective and smooth implementation. But 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,” said Alfonso Castillero, chief commercial officer of the Liberian International Ship & Corporate Registry.

Mr Castillero praised the timing of the deferment, just two months before the previously agreed implementation date. It could be reasonable to think that those involved in the research and manufacture of ballast water systems may not have been so enthusiastic. Joe Thomas, director, Ballast Water Management Systems, Environmental Solutions at Wartsila responded to the news.

“First and foremost it is regrettable that a further delay has been accepted by the IMO/MEPC. This effectively delays regulatory implementation of BWMS by 2 years from enter in to force (EIF) on 8th Sep 2017. Indeed some ships will not be required to install a BWMS until their second IOPP renewal following EIF and this amounts to a delay of up to seven years,” he said.

“Some BWMS suppliers will find it difficult to maintain their current positions and bridge this delay, although Wartsila has sufficient means to do so. All of our preparations will continue and we will endeavour to meet the needs of those customers that will still approach their BWMS needs in a proactive manner. In any event there is a need to support the newbuild market and our manufacturing readiness will be adjusted to meet these needs and react further as and when necessary,” Mr Thomas concluded.

Steven Matthew, regional manager in Asia for Calgon carbon UV Technologies and Hyde Marine maintains that, despite the deferment, shipowners could be better off not delaying their BWMS installations.

“We expect that the final version of the regulation(based on the draft circulated at MEPC) will require that systems installed after October 18, 2020 must meet the new mandatory requirements of the Ballast Water Management Code, a revision to the G8 and G9 guidance documents.  Ship Owners who install systems ahead of that deadline will be exempted from having to install new systems that meet the new standard provided those existing systems are still functional and can be maintained,” he said

“Practically, this means that Owners should be motivated to install systems early so they can avoid any additional problems when systems are retested (again) to the new IMO standards.  In reality based on what has happened in the past, ship owners will use this as an excuse to wait to install the newly approved systems,” Mr Matthew added.

Following the Ballast Water Convention deferment IMO has sought to assure governments and environmentalists that the imposition of a global sulphur cap by 2020 will not be deferred. But can anybody be sure anymore?





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