Ballast triumphs

Barbara Fountoukos confirms that the IMO has yielded to overwhelming demand for an extension to the Ballast Water Management Convention, just two months before the convention’s entry into force

A total of 61 flag countries, representing 68.46% of world merchant shipping tonnage ships, ratified the convention for the treatment of ballast water discharge in July. This means all yachts above 24m with a Ballast Water Management system will need to implement a Ballast Water and Sediments Management Plan, prepare their Ballast Water Record Books and adhere to standardised ballast water management procedures.Whilst newbuilds constructed (keel-laid) on or after 8 September 2017 will need to comply on delivery; existing yachts will now benefit from a two-year delay and can comply after 8 September 2019 – in conjunction with their International Oil Pollution Prevention Certificate (IOPP) renewal survey. Plus, due to the fact the IOPP survey takes place every five years, some will have up to September 2024 to install Ballast Water Management systems.

Yachts with ballast systems of 8m3 or below and less than 50 metres in length overall (used solely for recreational purposes including vessels available for charter) are unaffected and
can comply under Regulation A-5 ‘Equivalent Compliance’ which generally permits ballast water exchange depending on the Flag Administration.

An ongoing area of concern at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) is the transfer of Aquatic Invasive Species through shipping – which is now recognised as causing serious marine ecological problems within the world’s oceans. This means that ballast water, essential for safe and efficient operations, may pose serious ecological, economic and health issues due to the multitude of marine species carried within it, including bacteria, microbes, small invertebrates, eggs, cysts and larvae of various species etc.

Step in the ‘Ballast Water Management Convention’ (BWM), another IMO brainchild adopted in 2004 after more than 14 years of complex negotiations between IMO Member States. The Convention aims to help limit this negative effect in the future and will apply to all yachts and ships in scope and with sea water ballast systems.

Due to the operating profiles of yachts, the vast majority do not have typical ship ballast water systems that are used to counter displacement when offloading cargo. However, many large yachts use a ballast water system to maintain suitable heel and trim angles or are ‘explorer’ type vessels converted from carrying cargo. And this is why they have been caught up in a convention designed to clean up the mess left by commercial ships.

There is some tweaking going on between now and September 2017/2019, for example the Guidelines for Approval of Ballast Water Management Systems (G8) have been recently reviewed by an Intersessional Working Group at IMO. These new Guidelines address some concerns regarding the type approval of treatment plants and ‘first generation systems’ and in particular their level of performance in real world conditions.

During the last three MEPC sessions many member states have been divided on how best to address concerns over the new Guidelines including sampling, implementation and application dates, system availability, contingency measures and manufacturing standards. It is envisaged that the new Guidelines will in future become part of a mandatory code and thus it was deemed important to reach agreement before proceeding. The Guidelines are therefore yet to be formally ‘approved’ by the Member States who ratified the Convention, but hopefully will be by MEPC 72 next year.
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