Developments at IMO and in the industry

Since the issue of harmful invasive species via transfers of unmanaged ballast water was first brought to the MEPC´s attention in 1988, IMO has been relentlessly working to find ways to address it. Due to the enormous scientific and technological challenges the issue represented, and the highly complex and multi-disciplinary nature of the problem, the development of this new instrument was far from being seamless and took more time than initially anticipated. Given the complexity of the issue, it is important to recognize that any ballast water management  solutions need to integrate maritime policy and regulations, innovative engineering, biology and economics and that a globally standardized approach is the only effective way to address this global issue. The process leading to the adoption of such a complex international treaty has not been easy and has required significant efforts from IMO, its member States, the industry and the world community at large. When it comes to implementation, the challenges are even greater and without concerted action by all the countries and by all the stakeholders including the shipping industry, tangible results will not come easy.

It must be recognized that the Convention was adopted before the world had sufficient practical experience of managing ballast water on board ships, in particular in terms of using treatment systems.

To date, 44 States have ratified the Convention, representing 32.89% of world tonnage. When the Convention is ratified by a number of States totalling 35% of world tonnage, it will become a powerful legal instrument to avoid the on-going and future transfers of potentially harmful non-native species through ballast water and sediments and the damage inflicted upon the coastal and marine environments, human health, property and resources of several countries. IMO’s theme for World Maritime Day this year is “IMO conventions: effective implementation”. All the effort required to create an instrument that can be universally adopted may be meaningless if that instrument does not quickly become part of the international legal framework.

Challenges are being met, as today over 30 treatment systems are type approved and available and dozens of other systems are in various stages of development. The tools for effective implementation of the BWM Convention are, therefore, in place.

The type approval process has also been made more transparent which will provide more information to the industry and ship owners on the capabilities and limitations of the BWMS and the conditions in which the systems can operate (resolution MEPC.228.(65)).

MEPC 66 approved BWM-related guidance, including Guidance on entry or re-entry of ships into exclusive operation within water under the jurisdiction of a single Party and a revision of the GESAMP-BWWG Methodology for information gathering and conduct of work. In addition, MEPC requested the Secretariat to explore the possibility of conducting a study on the implementation of the ballast water performance standard described in regulation D-2 of the BWM Convention, with the aim to address a number of industry concerns, including proposals to amend the Guidelines for approval of ballast water management systems (G8).

MEPC 65 approved a circular on Guidance concerning ballast water sampling and analysis for trial use in accordance with the BWM Convention and Guidelines (G2) (BWM.2/Circ.42). The circular contains the current state-of-the-art science with respect to sampling and analysis of ballast water and includes provisions for further improvement and standardization in light of future development of the sampling and analysis techniques. The trial period will start once the Convention enters into force and the goal at the end of the trial period is to have a suite of accepted procedures that can be used for sampling and analysing ballast water in a globally consistent way.

In July 2014, the Sub-Committee on Implementation of the IMO Instruments (III) considered the report of the Correspondence Group on the Guidelines for port State control inspection for compliance with the BWMC.

In the last ten years, significant progress has been achieved in terms of technology developments, testing, verification and approval, development of effective compliance monitoring and enforcement tools and capacity building. The global maritime industry is playing a significant role in addressing the remaining challenges which shows that with effective and intelligent use of resources and through an integrated collaborative approach, answers to these challenges can be found.

For an overview of the current treatment technologies, you can consult, among others:

IHS Maritime – Guide to Ballast Water Treatment Systems 2014

Ballast water treatment technologies and current system availability – Part of Lloyd’s Register’s Understanding Ballast Water Management series

BIMCO/Fathom “Step-by-Step Guide to Ballast Water Management”