Shipowners face expensive new regime over ballast water management : insurer

by Canadian Shipper

LONDON, U.K.—According to the UK P&I Club, insurer of over 200 million tonnes of owned and chartered ships from more than fifty countries across the globe, shipowners worldwide will soon be obliged to address new and expensive regulations to deal with ballast water.

The Ballast Water Management Convention 2004 will require them to understand compliance standards, develop a ballast water management plan, select and install a treatment system and train personnel to operate the system. Their ships will also be subject to surveys and inspection to maintain certification, said a release.

The Convention requires ratification by 30 states, accounting for 35 per cent of world merchant tonnage. To date, state signatures amounting to 29 per cent of that tonnage have been obtained with the remainder expected shortly, said the Club.

Canada ratified the Convention in 2010, and Transport Canada is preparing to implement the Convention by way of amendments to its current Ballast Water Control and Management Regulations.

The International Maritime Organization’s Marine Environment Protection Committee has issued guidelines to facilitate implementation and uniform interpretation of the Convention by all countries.

At the MEPC 65th session in May, the IMO tried to address some of owners’ concerns by rescheduling the Convention implementation, installing a trial period for Port State Control to try out sampling and testing techniques, and making BWMS type approvals more transparent. The revised schedule should be adopted at the IMO’s Assembly in November 2013, said a release.

While there is strong support for the Ballast Water Management Convention, given the damage caused to the environment by invasive alien species, depletion of fish stocks and the high cost of controlling these effects, any ballast water management systems adopted “must avoid harming ship, crew, environment and public health—-and must gain formal approval.”

The cost of compliance to shipowners is expected to be high. A ballast water treatment system can cost from half a million to four million dollars, and could involve ancillary costs, including developing a ballast water management plan, dry docking and installation. 

There are two standards of compliance. The ballast water exchange standard (BWE) does not require the ship to install a treatment system but will be phased out by 2019. The ballast water performance standard (BWP) does require such a system.

Alternatives to the BWE and BWP methods must ensure at least the same level of protection to the environment, human health, property and resources. 

Party States will be responsible for enforcing the Convention in respect to ships registered under their flags and ships entering their jurisdictional waters. The Convention provides for ratifying States to establish sanctions which should be sufficiently strong to discourage violations. There is concern that the application, interpretation and enforcement of the Convention requirements and sanctions imposed by the States will differ.  

“The high economic costs to ship owners, introduced by the Convention, coupled with a lack of confidence that the proposed equipment and procedures can effectively tackle the adverse effects, probably explains why the rush to ratify the Convention has slowed down. While MEPC 651 and the revised implementation schedule have given owners breathing space, it would still be prudent for them to get to grips with the Convention’s requirements,” said Jacqueline Tan, Senior Claims Executive at Thomas Miller P&I.

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