November 25 - Following ratification by Indonesia, the IMO secretary general has said that the Ballast Water Management (BWM) Convention will enter into force worldwide from November 24, 2016.

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) believes that it is now mandatory for the IMO (International Maritime Organization) to finalise the revision of the G8 Type Approval Guidelines as soon as possible, in order to ensure that shipowners are absolutely confident that the expensive equipment they will soon be required 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.  

According to ICS, the fixing of a definite implementation date, after so many years of delay, gives shipowners some of the certainty needed to help them make important decisions regarding whether to refit the new mandatory treatment equipment, or start sending ships for early recycling.   

However, says ICS, the entry into force of the new IMO regime does not resolve the extreme difficulties that still exist in the USA. There is still great uncertainty with respect to the more stringent US approval regime for treatment equipment, which began enforcement in January 2014, with the US not being a party to the IMO Convention.

The US regulations require all ships that discharge ballast water in US waters to use a treatment system approved by the coast guard. However, continued ICS, because no systems have yet been approved, ships already required to comply with the US 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, explained ICS. But the USCG does not guarantee that an AMS will be subsequently granted full approval.

Therefore, ICS is worried that shipowners that may have installed an AMS in good faith, at a cost of between USD1-5 million per ship, might then have to replace the system completely after only five years. This is a particular concern for operators that have installed ultra-violet (UV) systems, said the association. 

There are over 50 treatment systems approved under the current IMO regime, but ICS has concerns that fewer than 20 manufacturers have so far indicated their intent to submit their systems for US approval.

The conflicting IMO and US 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 US waters when the IMO Convention enters in force, suggests ICS.