IMO Comes to Grips with Ballast Water Convention Issues

IMO Comes to Grips with Ballast Water Convention Issues

The IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) adopted measures to help accelerate the entry into force and implementation of the key international convention designed to eradicate the global spread of harmful organisms in ships’ ballast water at its 67th session (13 to 17 October 2014).

“Governments attending IMO’s MEPC this week have made real progress towards agreeing solutions to major issues that have previously impeded ratification of the IMO Ballast Water Management Convention,” says the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), the global trade association for ship operators.


Speaking at IMO headquarters, ICS Secretary General, Peter Hinchliffe, noted: “We are very pleased that IMO Member States have fully acknowledged the shipping industry’s concerns by agreeing to start work immediately on a revision of the G8 type-approval guidelines to make the process for approving ballast water treatment equipment more robust. 

In the meantime, it has also been agreed, in principle, that any shipowner that has invested in first generation treatment equipment, type-approved under the current G8 guidelines, should not be penalised, provided that the equipment is operated and maintained correctly.  

The adoption by IMO of new Port State Control guidelines reflecting a fair and pragmatic approach to inspection is also an important additional step.”

The International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments, 2004 (the BWM Convention), addresses the problem of aquatic organisms and pathogens being released into non-native environments after being transported around the world in ships’ ballast water. Such organisms may survive and out-compete native species, becoming invasive and causing a great deal of damage to the local ecosystem.

The BWM Convention requires the treatment and management of ballast water in order to kill off such microorganisms or species.

 The resolutions adopted by the MEPC last week address issues surrounding the type-approval of BWM systems and guidance for port State control inspections.
IMO Comes to Grips with Ballast Water Convention Issues1IMO explained that the adopted resolution targets concerns that the testing system for approval of BWM systems needs to be sufficiently robust and consistent so that any systems approved will meet the standards set out in the BWM treaty.

As a result,  the technical standards and approval testing procedures in the Guidelines for approval of ballast water management systems (G8) will undergo a comprehensive review.  A correspondence group was established to initiate the review. ​

Also adopted by an MEPC resolution were Guidelines for port State control inspection for compliance with the BWM Convention. The Guidelines note that every effort should be made to avoid any undue delays to the ship.

The MEPC also agreed a plan and terms of reference for a proposed study on implementation of the ballast water performance standard described in regulation D-2 of the BWM Convention. This specifies the water quality for discharge, related to specified maximum concentrations of viable organisms.

The study would include stakeholder surveys and collection of data on similarities and differences in existing practices relating to type approval and testing of BWM systems and practices relating to analysing the performance of BWM systems after installation on board ships. The final study report is to be submitted to MEPC 69 which is scheduled for early 2016.

Meanwhile, further BWM systems that make use of Active Substances were granted Basic Approval (one system) and Final Approval (three systems), following consideration of the reports of the 28th and 29th meetings of the Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environment Protection (GESAMP) Ballast Water Working Group. In addition, nine further type approvals of ballast water management systems were reported to the Committee, bringing the total number of reported type-approved systems to 51.

The BWM Convention will enter into force 12 months after ratification by 30 States which collectively represent 35 per cent of world merchant shipping tonnage.

According to IMO, the recent accessions by Turkey and Japan have brought this tantalisingly close.

“The number of ratifying states (43) states is already sufficient but, at 32.54 per cent, their collective share of world merchant shipping tonnage is not quite sufficient to trigger entry into force. However, it is anticipated that the entry-into-force criteria will be met shortly as a number of States have indicated they are making arrangements to deposit their instruments of accession very soon,” IMO said.​​​​

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