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Industry must act now to plan for ballast water compliance

With the industry’s eyes firmly fixed on the 2020 sulphur cap, shipowners might be paying less attention to installing a ballast water management system. But time will run out to comply with the ballast water regulation and delaying to the last minute could be costly.

Up until recently, it was widely accepted that ships exchanged ballast water mid sea, to avoid discharging water potentially containing invasive aquatic species close to shore. This practice will soon be insufficient in terms of compliance.

“We strongly advise to get the installation planned as soon as possible,” says Ashok Srinivasan, Manager, Maritime Technology and Regulation at BIMCO. “The compliance window is meant to spread out installations around the world, and if the majority of shipowners wait until the last minute, as close to 2024 as possible, there will be bottlenecks.”

The International Maritime Organization’s (IMO´s) Ballast Water Convention came into force on 8 September 2017, while the United States Coast Guard (USCG) regulations have been in force since 2012.

However, at the time the regulations took effect, shipowners were given a window to get the ballast water management systems (BWMS) in place. For US-flagged ships, or ships flying other flags operating in US waters, this date is generally 1 January 2021, although a few ships with extension letters may still have a little more time.

For the rest of the world, compliance with IMO’s Ballast Water Convention is by 8 September 2024, or even earlier, depending on the individual ship’s International Oil Pollution Prevention (IOPP) certificate renewal.

Bottlenecks could drive prices up

September 2024 seems far away, but from this date onwards, ships must have a ballast water management system installed, certified and ready to use, or use other methods of compliance to comply with the discharge standard. Penalties may apply for non-compliance.

Each ship faces a different date of compliance as the convention is linked to the renewal of IOPP certificates, which should be done every five years. While some players have managed to postpone the IOPP renewal – and thereby delay D-2 compliance – a BWMS or other method for compliance must be in place before 8 September 2024.

“Few players in the industry have installed the ballast water management systems so far. Not only might the industry face bottlenecks if there is a last-minute rush to the yards or retrofitting locations, but it may also be much more expensive, as a sharp rise in demand could drive prices up,” says Srinivasan.

Both the IMO Ballast Water Convention and the United States Coast Guard (USCG) regulations aim to prevent contamination of local waters with aquatic species by stopping ships from discharging ballast water containing unwanted invasive organisms and species. The available ballast water management systems use a range of technologies, including UV filtration, chemical injection, chlorination, and so on.

Fact box:

Installing a ballast water management system? Planning is key:

• Which system will work on your ship? There is a range of technologies to choose from. No one system fits all. If choosing a chemical-based system, pay careful consideration to the safety of the crew, availability of chemicals in all ports and the increased operating expenditure because of the use of the chemicals.
• Most systems are sold as a package and, while it should be easy to replace simple components, it could be problematic to find more complex spare parts in all parts of the world in case of a problem or breakdown of the system.
• Is the system approved for the US as well as for the rest of the world? For US-approved systems, each component must be US approved. If one of these spare parts becomes unavailable, the US approval may become void.
• Carry out due diligence of the manufacturers to assure global availability of spare parts and shore maintenance – also long term.
• Who will train your crew to operate the system in which you have invested a large sum?
• Investing in, and installing, a good ballast water management system can increase the resale value of the ship, but recycling a ship using the chemical-based system could be more expensive.
• If your ship is nearing the end of its operational life, is now the time to invest in expensive new equipment or is it time to recycle?

Source: By Mette Kronholm Frænde, Communications Manager and Editor at BIMCO

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