Seatrade Maritime is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Ballast Water Management Convention and 'certainty, challenges, cost and confusion'

Ballast Water Management Convention and 'certainty, challenges, cost and confusion'
At a summit on ballast water management last week in Athens the discussions can be summed up in four words, "certainty, challenge, cost, confusion".

Held under the auspices of the influential Greek Marine Technical Manager Association, Martecma, the summit, left little doubt there are many challenges ahead.

As summit and Martecma chairman, Stavros Hatzigrigoris, noted “all engaged in the BWM exercise, from ship operators through class societies, flag administrations to equipment vendors, are certain BWM is here, it poses great challenges, it is costly and it is causing confusion”.

As md of Maran Gas Maritime, part of the Angelicoussis Group, Hatzigrigoris is among Greek owners well versed in BWM with systems on board many of its tankers and VLGCs.

From the outset, keynote speaker Debra DiCianna, ABS' senior environmental solutions engineer, warned the requirements of “a convention not yet ratified” but, all the same, is in force presented "many challenges for shipowners both operating in the US and globally". Under the Ballast Water Management Convention (BWMC), "Complex and expensive systems need to be installed onboard ship.”

She believes it is only a matter of time before the outstanding 2.14% tonnage requirement is attained for the convention to be ratified. "We know flag administrations tend to announce ratifications at IMO meetings". The next meeting is in May.

Among flag administrations yet to ratify are Bahamas, China, Greece, Malta, Panama, Singapore and the UK, each alone could bring the convention into force. Argentina, Indonesia and Italy have indicated they are in the process of ratification.

As was expected it was hammered home that notwithstanding IMO’s BWMC, vessels wanting to operate in US territorial waters must be fitted with BWM systems that are USCG type approved in accordance with their implementation schedule. It was also stressed the USCG is well known for insisting on stricter test standards with a view to giving a greater confidence on the reliability of BWMS.

But, as Intertanko deputy md, Joe Angelo pointed out the first vendor request for USCG type approval came in just recently, in March and “the coast guard indicates it expects to have USCG approved BWMS sometime in 2015”.

For proprietary reasons, the USCG cannot tell us which BWMS manufacturers are currently pursuing USCG approval,” said Angelo. He added, “Intertanko contacted BWMS manufacturers to determine which of them have submitted a ‘letter of intent’ and 14 BWMS manufacturers informed us they intend to pursue USCG approval.” There are over 50 equipment vendors out there.

But, only after the testing is completed and the results have been evaluated, will a BWMS manufacturer then submit an application to the USCG for approval of their BWMS and this will take months.

Angelo said the coast guard “understands potential installation scheduling problems once a BWM system is approved” and the coast guard “indicates they will be pragmatic [whatever that means] in requiring when a ship calling at US ports must have a CG approved BWM system installed”.

But the US is not party to IMO BWM treaty, noted Angelo, while also noting the USCG allows the use of Alternate Management System (AMS) for five years after which a ship trading in the US will require a USCG approved BWMS.

And there’s the dilemma for the owner. “The ship operator must decide to either install AMS and hope it gets USCG approval or request an extension and hope there is a coast guard approved BWMS available for installation on their ship prior to the required installation date under the IMO convention,” he said.