The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) wants the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to address vital issues in connection with how the IMO Ballast Water Management (BWM) Convention is to be rolled out. The BWM Convention, expected to be implemented by 2014, requires thousands of ships to be retrofitted with equipment to meet its requirements; the ICS, which represents over 80% of commercial ships across the world, feels that the industry is headed for considerable chaos because of some of the equipment retrofitting requirements in the regulations. The ICS is believed to have written to the IMO's Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) regarding this.
David Tongue, ICS Director of Regulatory Affairs, says, “Shipping companies represented by our member national associations have serious concerns about the availability of suitable ballast water treatment equipment, the robustness of the type approval process and, above all, the difficulties of retrofitting tens of thousands of existing ships within the time frame established by the BWM Convention.”
The ICS warning comes two months before an MEPC meet scheduled for October this year. ICS is asking the MEPC to urgently reconsider the fixed dates for retrofitting ballast water management equipment on some 60,000 existing ships; it says that 'a serious discussion is needed at IMO before the Convention enters into force.' This is in line with the widespread consensus in the industry that fears that it will not be physically possible or economically feasible for millions of dollars of equipment to be fitted in line with IMO deadlines.
Many ships are required, under the Convention, to be retrofitted before their next special survey or their next intermediate survey. The ICS has now asked that the IMO should modify this clause and make existing ships exempt from retrofitting until their next full special survey. This, says the ICS, would 'smooth out' implementation over 5 years. ICS has also proposed that ships approaching their fourth special survey should be exempted from equipment requirements- or, alternatively, that ships more than 18 years old should be exempted.
“Given that the costs of fitting the treatment equipment may be in the order of 1 to 5 million dollars a ship, it does not make economic sense for older ships approaching the end of their lives to incur this huge expenditure," Tongue says, adding, "The impact on the environment of exempting them would be negligible since these ships will still be required to perform deep water ballast exchange at sea for the 2 or 3 remaining years that most of them will continue to operate.”
Addressing other issues of concern to its members, ICS has requested that the IMO modify its draft guidelines for type approval of BWM equipment to bring it in line with regulations that have been recently rolled out in the US. “A large proportion of the fleet will have to comply with the US requirements which cannot be changed. For the sake of global uniformity we think it would be helpful if the relevant IMO Guidelines can be modified,” says Tongue.