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Press Article: The Standard Club's perspective towards BWMC implementation

News & Insights 14 March 2017

In an exclusive interview with GREEN4SEA, Capt. Akshat Arora, Marine Surveyor, discusses what the implementation of the BWM Convention this September means for the shipping industry from a P&I perspective.

In an exclusive interview with GREEN4SEA, Capt. Akshat Arora, Marine Surveyor, discusses what the implementation of the BWM Convention this September means for the shipping industry from a P&I perspective. Capt. Arora notes that industry is looking forward to the forthcoming MEPC71 for clarifications regarding D-2 standards and reminds operators to ensure compliance with current BW requirements in order to avoid fines.

What are biggest challenges from the club perspective towards BWMC implementation?

With the upcoming entry into force of the BWMC, most ships will have to install or retrofit an onboard system to treat ballast water by 8 September 2017.

These systems must be approved by national authorities, according to a detailed process developed by the IMO, and also by the USCG if the vessel trades in US waters.

The USA has not ratified the Convention, and has instead enacted its own national legislation, considered more onerous than the IMO’s previous version of the Guidelines for approval of ballast water management systems (G8 Guidelines). However, the revised G8 Guidelines which were adopted at MEPC 70 (held from 24 to 28 October 2016) are now considered more onerous.

The State of California has its own ballast water standards, which will come into effect on 1 January 2020 and are expected to be more stringent than those of the USCG.

A further complication to ballast water compliance in the USA is that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has also issued its own ballast water discharge standards that are similar, but not identical, to the USCG’s final rule. The EPA’s compliance policy is set out in the EPA’s 2013 Vessel General Permit (VGP), which came into effect on 19 December 2013. Since compliance with the VGP is still impossible at this time, the EPA issued an ‘Enforcement Response Policy for EPA’s Vessel General Permit’ on 27 December 2013. In this guidance, the EPA stated that it would take a low enforcement priority approach. The EPA has advised that ship operators must have received an extension from the USCG and must be in compliance with all other provisions of the 2013 VGP. Significantly, the EPA explained that an extension granted by the USCG would not be considered binding on the EPA.

The inconsistency between the various regulations has left the industry with a conundrum as to how to ensure compliance.

While the USCG’s final rule requires the installation of a type approved treatment system at the first scheduled dry docking after 1 January 2016, compliance to the Convention is expected to be judged at the first renewal of the International Oil Pollution Prevention (IOPP) certificate following the date of the Convention’s entry into force. An IOPP certificate is valid for five years so approximately 97% of the world’s tonnage will need to retrofit a system before 2022 unless further extensions can be obtained or ships are scrapped. This will create what has become known in the industry as a ‘retrofit bottleneck’.

The cost of retrofitting is expected to be between $1-5m and some older ships may not have space in the engine room for installation of the machinery. This is expected to lead to increased scrapping of older ships, particularly bulk carriers.

There is still confusion amongst the club’s members, as to what they should install and when, to ensure compliance with the IMO and US regimes.

What is your advice to club members on the implementation of the BWMC?

Currently, the retrofitting schedule for the treatment systems (as revised by Resolution A.1088) specifies the first renewal survey of the IOPP Certificate after the Convention comes into force on 8 September 2017.

It is expected that MEPC 71 (scheduled in May 2017) will decide on the phase-in mechanism for compliance with the D-2 standards (i.e. installation of BWMS). Under the present circumstances, we recommend members to wait for the outcome of the next MEPC meeting, for further clarity.

Members are also reminded that P&I cover for fines involving non-compliance to the ballast water requirements, except for accidental discharges, will be discretionary (similar to MARPOL violations). In such cases, members will be required to satisfy the board that all reasonable steps had been taken to avoid the event giving rise to the fine.

What is your message to industry stakeholders (IMO, USCG, US EPA, Flags, Vendors, Consultants, Classification Societies, Service Providers etc., if any) towards implementation of the BWMC?

Currently there are over 50 treatment systems in the market with type approval from IMO; and so far three ballast water treatment systems (which are already IMO type approved) have USCG type approval certification.

The recent Marine Safety Information Bulletin (MSIB 003/2017) issued by USCG highlights that their policy granting extensions has now become considerably stricter, with extensions only being issued to vessels that successfully prove their inability to acquire and/or install a type-approved BWMS by their compliance dates.

This gives the majority of ship owners/operators only three treatment technologies to choose between. The industry would like more approved systems through which they can achieve compliance with both IMO and US standards.

To encourage the industry in effective implementation of ballast water requirements, it is important that ballast samples are tested at regular intervals. Under the difficult global market conditions, this additional cost could prove challenging. Vendors and service providers would be expected to keep such costs within acceptable limits.

The club is aware of certain flag states allowing de-harmonizing of the IOPP renewal survey from other statutory surveys and certificates covered under the Harmonised System of Survey and Certification (HSSC) and permitting early renewal. Even though there is no legal requirement that explicitly prohibits this, the club recommends members keep the IOPP certificate within the HSSC.

Lastly, the club would expect the enforcement agencies to adopt a practical and pragmatic approach once the BWMC comes into force.


This interview was published in GREEN4SEA, available online here, and is reproduced with kind permission. 

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