Despite the ratification and entry into force of the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Ballast Water Management Convention regime, difficulties will remain in the United States, according to the trade association for merchant shipowners International Chamber of Shipping (ICS).
The IMO’s Ballast Water Management Convention will enter into force worldwide from 24 November 2016, following ratification by Indonesia.
ICS said that the uncertainties in question relate to the more stringent United States approval regime for treatment equipment, which started to be enforced in January 2014 (the U.S. not being a party to the IMO Convention).
The U.S. regulations require all ships that discharge ballast water in U.S. waters to use a treatment system approved by the US Coast Guard. However, because no systems have yet been approved, ships already required to comply with the U.S. regulations have either been granted extensions to the dates for fitting the required treatment systems or else permitted to install a USCG accepted Alternate Management System (AMS), in practice a system type-approved in accordance with the current IMO Guidelines.
However, an AMS will only be accepted for operation for five years, after which time a fully USCG approved system must be installed. But the USCG does not guarantee that an AMS will be subsequently granted full approval. Hence shipowners that may have installed an AMS, at a cost of between US $1-5 million per ship, might then have to replace the system completely after only 5 years. This is a particular concern for operators that have installed ultra-violet (UV) systems.
There are over 50 treatment systems approved under the current IMO regime, but ICS says that fewer than 20 manufacturers have so far indicated their intent to submit their systems for U.S. approval. The conflicting IMO and U.S. requirements, when combined with the complete lack of systems fully approved by the USCG, could produce an impossible situation in which some ships might not be able to operate in U.S. waters when the IMO Convention enters in force.
ICS added that it now pushes IMO to finalise the revision of the G8 Type Approval Guidelines as soon as possible, in order to ensure that shipowners can have absolute confidence that the expensive equipment they will soon have to install will be effective in treating ballast water conditions normally encountered during worldwide operations and be regarded as fully compliant during Port State Control inspections.