December 23 - The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) says it will no longer discourage governments from ratifying the Ballast Water Management (BWM) Convention, which may bring the order into force sooner than expected.

ICS stated it will "no longer actively discourage those governments that have not yet done so from ratifying the convention, in order that it might enter into force sooner rather than later so that amendments to the convention, which the industry has requested, can then be adopted and implemented by governments as soon as possible."

Currently, only 2.46 percent of world tonnage is required to ratify to the proposed BWM Convention in order to bring it into force. Once effective, it will be possible to amend the convention.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) secretary-general, Koji Sekimizu, has welcomed ICS' reconsidered position: "My personal message to the shipping industry is to take action as soon as possible to start preparations for installing ballast water management systems on board existing ships, in advance of the revised implementation schedule agreed by the IMO Assembly. This would avoid the risk of creating a bottleneck at shipyards during the initial implementation period, when the demand for retrofitting of such systems is expected to be high." 

ICS has been in staunch opposition to the BWM for a number of years citing compliance issues including: the lack of robustness of the current IMO type-approval process for the new treatment equipment; the criteria to be used for sampling ballast water during port state control inspections; and the need for 'grandfathering' of type-approved equipment already or about to be fitted.  

Sekimizu added: "I recognise that the position of ICS has had a considerable influence over the decisions of IMO Member States during the last two years and, with the change of position of ICS triggered by the resolution adopted at the latest MEPC, I now sincerely hope that those states holding tonnage of more than 2.5 per cent will also change their position and take swift actions to ratify the BWM Convention as soon as possible, so that we can make real progress in dealing with the problems of invasive species through ballast water on which IMO has spent enormous amounts of time, energy and serious effort in order to protect the marine environment over the last two decades."