As the ratification of the Bunker tankers (BWM) Convention approaches, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) is now considering whether to grant exemptions for vessels operating in a limited geographical area from the requirement to manage ballast water, rather than the current exemption provisions where each individual ship must make its case.
This follows a proposal to define and apply a mechanism for two or more coastal states (parties) to delineate a “same risk area” (SRA) through a systematic and scientifically sound process.
This approach may also benefit bunker tanker owners with vessels operating in a limited geographical range between neighbouring coastal states, for example between Denmark and Sweden, or between Singapore and Malaysia, the International Bunker Industry Association (IBIA) said.
“It could be relevant for many areas such as the Adriatic, the Aegean Sea, the Black Sea, the Gibraltar Strait and the English Channel,” IBIA said.
A bunker tanker operating in an area defined as SRA would not need a BWM system. It could also make forays outside of the SRA as long as it never makes any ballast water exchanges outside of the SRA. Alternatively, the vessel could clean its BW tanks and use fresh water for such a foray.
The exemption would be granted if it can be demonstrated that the vessels would not constitute a risk to spreading potentially invasive species, according to IMO.
This was first proposed to the IMO by Croatia, Denmark, Singapore, ICS and Interferry with a more concrete proposal later submitted by Denmark and Interferry.
The intention of IMO’s BWM Convention is to prevent the spread of potentially invasive species carried in ship’s ballast water tanks. While this makes sense for vessels on transoceanic/intercontinental voyages, some short sea shipping may be operating within regions where the marine ecosystems are so similar that installing BWM equipment on ships would be pointless, IBIA added.
It is possible, under current regulations, for coastal states that are parties to the BWM Convention to grant exemptions from BWM requirements to a ship or ships operating between specified ports or locations using a risk assessment in accordance with IMO Guidelines (G7).