October 9 - The International Maritime Organization's (IMO) Ballast Water Management Convention (BWC) - which is expected to enter into force during 2016 - will force the global shipping industry to invest around USD100 billion in new water treatment syst
The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) - the principal international trade association for shipowners comprising 36 national shipowners' associations that represent over 80 percent of world merchant tonnage - fully supports the objectives of the IMO convention, and the standards that governments have set for killing unwanted marine micro-organisms that can be transported in ships' ballast water.
However, shipping companies still lack confidence that the expensive new equipment required will be regarded as fully compliant by governments, even though it has been typed-approved, unless serious implementation problems with the convention are addressed at next week's meeting of the IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC).
The ICS and its members are now engaged in a final flurry of lobbying, following an extensive campaign with governments over several years. Key issues that need to be addressed, says ICS, include: the lack of robustness of the current IMO type-approval process for the expensive 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.
ICS, in conjunction with a coalition of other industry associations, has made a detailed submission to the MEPC explaining the industry's concerns and a proposed way forward. This takes the form of an MEPC Resolution which would serve as a 'gentlemen's agreement' by IMO Member States stating that shipowners that have installed new equipment, in good faith, and who operate and maintain it correctly, will not be unfairly penalised.
On the basis of recent contact with governments, ICS believes that there is now greater understanding of the industry's concerns, and that there is growing recognition that it is unreasonable to expect shipowners to invest millions of dollars per ship without any certainty that the equipment will be fit for purpose.
ICS is pleased that the Government of Canada - which has previously been sceptical about the industry's concerns - now appears to acknowledge that there is a serious problem.
However, the solution that Canada has proposed to the IMO, as an attempt at a compromise, does nothing to address the industry's fundamental concerns and could actually make implementation even more complicated by introducing a new concept of "minor exceedance" of the convention's discharge standards. To define and agree such a standard could take several years of discussion at IMO.
ICS believes that outstanding problems must be addressed now, in advance of the convention receiving the necessary number of ratifications by governments to enter into force.