Concerns have been raised abut the imminence of Ballast Water Management Convention ratification at a tripartite meeting between shipowners, shipbuilders and classification societies held in Seoul, Republic of Korea on 16 and 17 October 2015.

The meeting was attended by 100 high-level representatives of the industry, including chairmen and executives of the Round Table Associations (BIMCO, ICS, Intercargo and INTERTANKO).

It was widely agreed that the Ballast Water Management Convention could enter into force very shortly. And, more than 11 years after the adoption of the treaty text, there is still little confidence in the capability of type approved equipment to perform satisfactorily under operational conditions. 

Concerns are significantly heightened by the lack of type approved equipment in the US to meet the national regulation already in force. This leaves owners and shipyards unable to make long-term investment and planning decisions

Speaking exclusively to following the meeting, the International Chamber of Shipping’s secretary general, Peter Hinchcliffe said the superyaht industry was right to be concerned.

“The BWMC is so close to its ratification criteria for tonnage that its seems inevitable that just one medium or a couple of smaller flag states will tip it over the edge. We are aware that ratification processes are underway in a few more countries. Once the criteria is achieved then the convention will become enforceable one year later.
“As you probably know, serious concerns raised by ICS are currently being addressed in an IMO MEPC [Marine Environment Protection Committee] correspondence group that will report to MEPC next year. Whilst we are generally happy with progress, we retain concerns about how the resulting changes will be implemented in the convention. And entry into force of the convention before the changes are ready will create some very difficult issues.”

Image courtesy of R. Zettelmaier, Bureau Veritas, 'Ballast Water Management Update'; presented at the 4. VDR Ballast water symposium, 08.-09. September 2015, Hamburg/Leer.

However, as Hinchcliffe went on to explain, the even more pressing matter is the unilateral action taken by the US Environmental Protection Agency, which has imposed ballast water restrictions on vessels operating in its waters.

“[This] unilateral regulation in the US, already in force, has no chance that the US is going to type approve actual equipment in the near future. Again, if the BWMC enters into force in the next 12 months then an owner [cruising in] the US will have no choice but to fit IMO type-approved equipment - for large ships this equals $3-5million - with the potential that he may have to change it for US-approved equipment later. It is the US-IMO problem that concerns us most of all at present.”

This was a point reiterated by Matthias Voigt, R&D Director at one of the superyacht industry’s leading manufacturers of ballast water equipment, Cathelco.

When asked whether US unilateralism could prove problematic to superyachts, Voigt said, “The answer is a clear ‘yes’, it will have an impact on superyachts. This is mainly because of the EPA's vessel general permit (VGP), that applies to all vessels greater than 79 feet. As superyachts are bigger than that, they will have to comply with the VGP, which includes requirements for ballast water discharges.”

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