Convention on Ballast Water Management: A Way Forward
- Indra Nath Bose, Head – Vessel Performance Management, The Great Eastern Shipping Co Ltd

While BWM Convention 2004 will come into force a year after 30 flag states, which are representing 35 per cent of the global fleet, have ratified it in their own regulations, the article throws light into various aspects in smooth implementing of the convention.

International convention for the control and management of Ships’ ballast water and sediments, 2004 in short, BWM Convention will come into force a year after 30 flag states representing 35 per cent of the global fleet have ratified it in their own regulations. According to the latest data from the IMO, the percentage of the global fleet currently represented by the 40 signatories stands at 30.25 per cent. According to recent media releases, Japan and Turkey have also incorporated the Convention requirements in their domestic legislations though are yet to communicate their accession to the Convention to IMO.

The revised implementation schedule for existing ships is now spread over five years instead of earlier two and half years following the entry into force of the Convention by aligning the requirement of BWMS fitment with a ship’s International Oil Pollution Prevention Certificate renewal survey. Also, all ships constructed prior to entry into force of the Convention are now to be treated as ‘existing ships’.

The revised implementation schedule for new constructions and existing ships was adopted in IMO Assembly late last year to ease some pressure on shipowners and stake holders. However for US trading vessels, this has not made any difference since the US Administration has not revised its original implementation schedule. Ships intending to trade in waters of California State have to comply with specific implementation schedule of the state. All these make shipowners freedom to trade his vessels that much more complex and challenging.

IMO BWM Convention Implementation Schedule
(If entry into force occurs prior to January 1, 2016)
USCG BWTS Implementation Schedule
Currently almost 80 Ballast Water Management Systems (BWTS) are available in the market or are under development using various technologies, namely Filteration, Ultra Violet Rays, Side Stream Electrochlorination, Chemical doses, Ozone, Deoxygenation, Hydrocyclone, Ultrasonic, Cavitation, Full Flow Electrolysis and combinations of above.

The current IMO type approval process for ballast water management systems (G8 Guideline) remains inadequate in providing ship operators with reliable, dependable BWMS to install on board their ships. The concerns include the fact that G8 does not require testing in all kinds of environment that the BWMS will have to perform in while fitted on board ships, e.g., testing in water of low salinity and or low temperature that may affect performance in practice. Holding time requirements related to some systems may also be incompatible with the vessel’s scheduled loading cycle. Hence the installation of a Type Approved BWMS would provide no guarantee that the treatment would be acceptable to Port State Control (PSC) authorities. A robust and revised type approval process (G8) would have offered certainty to owners and operators purchasing BWMS.

Industry associations have been urging IMO to amend the G8 Guideline to ensure that billions of dollars investment by shipowners on type approved BWMS will in fact reliably and effectively be able to meet the mandatory discharge standard of the Convention.

PSC authorities have been advised to “refrain from detaining a ship or initiating criminals sanctions in the event a BWMS does not meet the discharge standard” during sampling and analysis during the first two or three years and to use sampling and analysis on a trial basis during this time.

It must be noted that the US has reserved its position on the principle of port States refraining from applying criminal sanctions or detaining ships on the basis of sampling during the trial period.

The circular may be considered something of a double edged sword as it introduces the possibility to trial any sampling procedure and does not limit compliance sampling to be aligned with (or no more stringent) what is required for Type Approval sampling.

Perhaps the only encouraging news is that the power requirement and cost for BWMS in general is reducing through research and development in a very competitive environment among BWMS manufacturers.

While selecting BWMS, shipowners need to ensure that Makers provide clear commitment with respect to among others followings: extended warranty, adequate spare parts, crew training, report of failure mode and effect analysis etc.

If an owner is considering buying a Ballast Water Management (BWM) system for US trading vessel, it will be prudent to get assurances from the vendor that it will be USCG type approved within five years. In addition, it will be prudent to be sure to get contractual language that provides a warranty or remedy if the system doesn’t make it through the USCG type approval process.

One can only hope that regulations henceforth are not framed on speculating technological developments in future under the false belief that regulations will drive technology but in consonant with reliable technology.

DNV GL, the world’s leading ship and offshore classification society, in a recent advisory to the industry with respect to selection of BWMS has advised “In a newbuilding project, the major selection factor is the equipment’s cost.

Apart from that, one of the most important considerations when selecting a system is the Operational Expenditure (OPEX), such as running and maintenance costs. For a new ship, a high Capital Expenditure (CAPEX) could be acceptable if the OPEX is low, but, for an older vessel, a low CAPEX is likely to be more favourable even though the OPEX could be high.”

Let us hope CAPEX and OPEX that shipowners incur in installing and operating Ballast Water Management System (BWMS) perform so that the discharged water actually meets the standard. Once installed on a vessel, Owner of the vessel alone will be held accountable for the performance of such system.