The ballast water landscape post-MEPC 71

by Susanna Wyllie, Global Proposals Manager – BALPURE® at De Nora, first published in Green4Sea, August 2017

Last September, the ratification of the IMO’s Ballast Water Management Convention set the clock ticking on compliance. The whole industry, suppliers and shipowners alike, started to shift into action expecting entry into force on 8th September 2017. Now, the landscape has changed again. At MEPC 71, the deadline for retrofitting vessels was extended by two years to the first survey after September 2019, while for newbuilds it remains that a ballast water treatment system (BWTS) must be installed on all vessels with keel laid after 8th September this year.

These have been two radical changes within twelve months. For both owners and suppliers, the requirements and timescales have shifted. Although an additional two years on the deadline for retrofitting vessels may not sound like a long extension, with many owners choosing to renew their five-year International Oil Pollution Prevention Certificate (IOPPC) on the cusp of entry into force, the reality is that this pushes industry compliance out by up to seven years.

The IMO’s Ballast Water Management convention was adopted in 2004. The industry has already had 13 years to plan and put in place sufficient capabilities to meet compliance on its entry into force. However, many owners still do not have a clear plan in place of how to address both IMO and USCG requirements and are relying on the flexibility granted by the IMO in July and on continued USCG extensions.

The message to IMO in July was that the BWTS industry was not ready and proven BWTS options were not available, but this is not the case. Over 50 ballast water treatment systems have achieved IMO Type Approval and several now also have USCG Type Approval. Within the next 6-12 months, we will see more USCG Type Approvals, including De Nora’s BALPURE system. With such a range of compliant options available, there is ample choice for owners, including BALPURE, which has been commissioned and rigorously tested in commercial operation. This includes significant experience with hazardous area tanker installations which can be challenging for some suppliers.  The BWTS market is prepared, options are available, and manufacturers like De Nora have prepared to meet demand.

In the next two years, owners and operators must take the necessary steps toward compliance and should not leave it until the last minute to start thinking about compliance options as has happened since 2004. Deharmonising may seem the easy solution now, but those choosing to do this need to understand that there could be repercussions and plan accordingly.

The industry is likely to see a peak requirement for BWTS installation between 2022 and 2024 which will influence dry dock capacity and the manufacturer’s ability to supply. During this time BWTS manufacturers, class societies and dockyards are likely to be operating at full capacity, meaning long waiting lists for BWTS installation and the potential that owners may have to accept a sub-standard solution to avoid non-compliance.

It is vital that owners get the right solution for their vessel type to ensure that they can reliably meet compliance with minimal impact on already stretched crew time and resources The BWTS is a long-term investment critical to the owners business’ longevity and they should start negotiation agreements with vendors accordingly.

With an additional two years to get the ballast water convention right, and an increasing number of systems obtaining IMO and USCG certification, De Nora is confident that it is one challenge that we can rise to meet together.