Following the International Maritime Organization's (IMO) Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) 71st session that took place last week, a delay to the Ballast Water Management (BWM) Convention  of two years has been agreed for existing vessels.  The regulations of the BWM  Convention will still apply for new build vessels from 8 September 2017, but yachts needing retrofitting will now have to comply by their first IOPP renewal after 8 September 2019.

“I think it can be construed one of two ways,” begins Shelley Dowie, yacht compliance manager at Rosemont Yacht Management. “It is good that [the delay] happened and that it has been pushed back for some vessels, but it has also been coming in for quite some time, so vessels that have ballast tanks would have probably already addressed this situation. So, I should imagine a lot of people have already done something about it; either this shipyard period or planning it for the next shipyard period.”

For owners that have already organised for ballast treatment systems to be installed on board, the extension means they are well prepared, but also means they may have had to budget more than expected unnecessarily. “It is a cost thing as well, had we known before that it was going to be extended, the costs [of retrofitting] could have been split over a couple of shipyard periods instead of everything having to be achieved and budgeted for in the most recent shipyard period,” explains Dowie.

The Ballast Water Management Convention has been in the pipeline for over ten years, and was formally adopted in February 2004. The regulations aim to stop the transfer of microbes, bacteria and other marine life forms between different ecosystems, which can fundamentally alter underwater environments by introducing invasive species to new areas.  The shipping industry  (including yachting) is estimated to transfer between 10 and 12 billion tonnes of ballast water around the globe per year.

The regulations outline that all yachts over 400gt must have a system on board to successfully treat their ballast water systems. There are two options for ballast water management, an ‘exchange’ (D-1 standard regulations), where yachts conduct an exchange of the water 200 nautical miles from the nearest land or ‘treatment’ (D-2), which involves a combination of chemical, physical or mechanical methods to remove the organisms from the water.

The IMO continue to work with the US Coast Guard (USCG) on standardising the type-approval process for ballast water systems. Currently, the USCG has a different, higher test standard for treatment systems, meaning that many manufacturers who worked to the IMO regulations now have to adapt their designs, thus violating their original type-approval. This extension is a positive for many manufacturers, who now have the opportunity to hone and improve their original designs, ensuring they are type-approved with both the IMO and the USCG.

The impact of the Ballast Water Management Convention will be explored in detail in issue 181 of The Superyacht Report. Click here to see if you are eligible for a complimentary subscription.