Agreement will enter into force / US Coast Guard stets standards
The big day is approaching. The international ballast water agreement will enter into force on 8 September this year. At the latest during the next regular docking or renewal of the IOPP certificate after the 8 September 2019 ships must be retrofitted with appropriate treatment facilities that eliminate unwanted organisms in the ballast water. The Association of German Shipowners (VDR) urges its members to take care of the installation of appropriate facilities in time. Due to increased demand it could otherwise lead to delays in the installation. Bureau Veritas estimates that around 34,000 ships have to be retrofitted worldwide. For 2020, the classification society expects the peak to be at about 9500 ships.
With Australia, the 61st member state of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has now ratified the agreement, which has been discussed for decades. This means that 68,46 per cent of the world trade fleet support the new regulation. Ballast water treatment is designed to prevent foreign organisms from entering other habitats as “stowaways” and displacing native species. The Chinese mitten crab serves as an example: It was introduced to Europe as early as the late 19th century and has caused damage of tens of millions per year.
USA impose tight schedules
Also in the US, the uncertainty surrounding the topic of ballast water treatment is eliminated. The United States had not joined the IMO convention and instead issued its own decree for US waters in 2013. Accordingly, all vessels with up to 5000 m3 of ballast water must be equipped with a treatment plant by 2019 and all larger vessels by 2021 at the latest.
After the US Coast Guard had left the criteria for the approval of treatment facilities open for years, there are clear regulations now. Although the IMO regulations have been aligned with US regulations in many respects, so far, there are only few installations certified according to the IMO regulations, which can also be operated in US waters. The crucial point is that the Americans demand that the treatment lead to the same results even with different water qualities and temperatures. For ships which have already been equipped with IMO-approved treatment facilities, the Americans have allowed a transitional period of five years for the re-equipping.
Retrofit experts develop custom-fit solutions
In view of the variety of possible installations as well as the complex regulations and approval procedures, independent organizations such as the shipowners’ association or the “green-shipping Niedersachsen” initiative recommend that every ship owner get competent advice. Retrofit experts, such as the German Dry Docks Group, support the shipowners not only in the selection and purchase of the appropriate system. Above all, they take care of the precise integration into the already existing ballast water system using modern methods such as the laser scan to allow the optimum installation.
Such plans require an appropriate lead time. But it is not just for this reason that shipowners must now deal with the issue. As of 8 September 2017, each vessel, even if it still has no treatment facility, must have a ballast water management plan on board, which can be checked in the usual port state controls. The background is that ballast water may only be returned to the sea to a limited extent.