Industry Issues


IMO CONVENTION PROBLEMS

   The WSC has joined with other shipowner and operator representatives at the IMO, including the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), the Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO), and the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners (INTERTANKO), to address some critical problems with the BWM Convention before it enters into force.

1. Treatment Technology Implementation Schedule:  

 Regulation B-3 of the Convention contains the schedule for the installation of IMO type approved ballast water treatment technologies for existing vessels and newbuilds.  Because the Convention had not entered into force by the time some vessels would have been required to be equipped with treatment technology and to clarify when existing vessels will be required to be equipped with technology, the IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) drafted and the IMO Assembly passed Resolution A 28/Res.1088 in December 2013 to address these issues.  This Resolution, which was based on recommendations of an earlier Correspondence Group in which WSC participated, will spread out the installation of ballast water treatment systems – particularly retrofits of existing vessels -- over vessels’ regular dry-docking schedules after 2016. Specifically, the Resolution interprets the Convention’s implementation schedule such that existing ships would have until the first ship renewal survey (which is typically a dry-docking) after the Convention enters into force to retrofit the vessel with IMO type approved treatment technology.

2. Revision of IMO Type Approval Guidelines

The most significant BWM Convention issue shipowners and operators face is the need for ballast water treatment systems that have been type approved pursuant to the IMO “G8” Guidelines to enable vessels equipped with such technologies to meet the D-2 treatment standard wherever the vessel calls.  The IMO developed the G8 Guidelines to establish an orderly process whereby candidate technologies are tested in land based and shipboard tests and certified (i.e. type approved) by IMO member states if they meet the required discharge criteria.  Ensuring installed treatment systems consistently and reliably meet the required discharge standard not only protects the environment by reducing the transfer of aquatic invasive species between ecosystems, but also provides vessel owners and operators, who will spend one to two million dollars to equip a single vessel with ballast water treatment technology, with confidence that use of a type approved system will enable the vessel to comply with the standard wherever the vessel calls.  Since between 60 and 70 thousand vessels will need to be equipped with ballast water treatment technology worldwide at a combined cost exceeding $100 billion, it is important that the G8 Guidelines demonstrate that type approved technologies are fit for purpose. 

Unfortunately, there have been recent cases in which IMO type approved ballast water treatment systems have failed to meet the D-2 standard when subject to additional testing and/or evaluation.  Adding to shipowners’ uncertainty about the validity of the G8 Guidelines, the U.S. Coast Guard adopted, in August 2009, a stricter type approval testing protocol (based, in part, on the EPA/USCG Environmental Technology Verification (ETV) protocol) after citing concerns over the rigor of the G8 type approval regime.   With a goal of seeking resolution of these problems, industry stakeholders presented its assessment of the main shortcomings of G8 Guidelines to the IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) in October 2012 in papers MEPC 64/2/17 and MEPC 64/2/18.  These papers noted ship owner/operator concerns about the “lack of robustness” of the G8 Guidelines, and contained six suggested areas as the basis for amendment to the G8 Guidelines, including:

 

  1. Testing should use waters representing the full range of salinities a  vessel might encounter during normal voyages;
  2. Testing should consider the effect of temperature on system operation and treatment efficacy;
  3. Testing facilities should employ a standardized set of test organisms to enhance consistency;
  4. Testing should incorporate higher levels of suspended solids in test water to simulate real-world water conditions;
  5. Testing should require that all test-runs—passes and failures—be reported in the system evaluation so as to eliminate “cherry-picking” of only passing results to earn type approval;
  6. Testing should use flow rates (i.e. the rate at which water is pumped through the treatment system) that are realistic for the types of vessels in which the system will be installed.  

 

While MEPC 64 did not agree to amend the G8 Guidelines to address industry’s concerns, MEPC 65  (May 2013) passed Resolution MEPC.228(65) which added additional test result information to be reported to the IMO when a Member State issues a type approval certificate to a ballast water treatment technology.  While this change was welcomed by shipowners/operators, it fell short of directly fixing the problems with the G8 Guidelines.

In April, 2014, shipowner/operator associations once again filed a submission to MEPC 66 (MEPC 66/2/11) updating the committee on the need to address the problems with the G8 Guidelines and recommending that they be amended without delay.  While MEPC 66 did not agree to review and amend the G8 Guidelines, the Committee agreed to conduct a multi-year study on the implementation of the D-2 treatment standard, including an assessment of industry’s recommended changes to the G8 Guidelines.

At the MEPC 67 meeting in October 2014, shipowner/operator associations filed a submission (MEPC 67/2/6) that recommended adoption of an MEPC Resolution to address industry’s remaining concerns with the Convention, namely:  a) that the IMO’s existing G8 type approval guidelines fail to provide confidence that IMO type approved equipment will reliably meet the D2 discharge standard, thus creating investment uncertainty for vessels that may be traded globally; b) that the G8 guidelines need to be reviewed and revised as soon as practicable; c)  that vessels that install “first generation” IMO type approved technology should receive some form of grandfathering to protect their early adoption of technology; and d) that port state enforcement and sampling should follow a predictable, linear process that does not unreasonably penalize shipowners who are properly operating their IMO type approved BWM systems. 

Noting these concerns, which were shared by many IMO member states, MEPC 67 adopted a MEPC Resolution that agrees to a comprehensive review and subsequent revision of the G8 guidelines, agrees that shipowners that have installed existing type approved systems should not be “penalized”, and agrees that shipowners should not be subject to port state control sanctions or operational delays during the trial period following entry into force.  MEPC 67 also agreed on a draft work plan and terms of reference for an immediate MEPC correspondence group that will perform the G8 review and report recommended changes to G8 to MEPC 68 (which meets in May 2015) and a separate MEPC resolution that adopts previously developed port state control guidelines to establish an orderly process for sampling vessels to assess compliance with the discharge standard. The report of MEPC 67 (MEPC 67/20), which contains both of the MEPC Resolutions discussed above, may be found here.

The specific parameters of a "grandfathering" provision to protect early adopters' ballast water treatment system investments will be considered at MEPC 68 in May 2015. Whatever grandfathering terms are ultimately agreed at MEPC, it is worth noting that such terms would not apply to vessels calling the United States because U.S. regulations require vessels to be equipped with U.S. type approved ballast water management systems.