Shipowners seek another 2 years delay on penalising non-ballast water convention compliance

Call for extension comes after agreed experience building and data collection phase hit by COVID-19 restrictions

A three-year leniency period when shipowners should not be penalised if ballast water treatment systems do not work should be extended says shipping groups.

They argue that a data and fact-finding period that was earlier agreed at the IMO following the ballast water convention coming into force should be extended because member states have not been collecting enough data.

The proposal to go easy on shipowners with poor ballast water system performance comes from The International Chamber of Shipping, BIMCO; Intertanko and Intercargo. The International Association of Classification Societies is also supporting the proposal.

The groups argue that once the ballast water convention came into force the marine environment protection committee agreed to an experience building phase to allow the collection of data to determine how well systems were performing and how accurate it was for ballast samples to be taken and analysed to see if invasive creatures were eradicated from ballast water.

To that extent the IMO issued a circular to its member states in May 2019 asking for them to submit data about ballast water discharge criteria they inspected.

It asked member states to not set penalties (up to 2021) on vessels that were found to be discharging ballast water that does not meet the standards written into the convention. The idea is to collect data and then analyse to see if the convention may need to be revised in light of the experience gained in the industry, particularly with treatment system capabilities (including biological efficacy).

However only four member states have submitted data to the IMO, says the shipping groups, and of those most have not given all the data that is sought. The paper now submitted to the IMO suggests that the COVD-19 pandemic has negatively impacted the ability of flat state inspectors (or surveyors from their recognised organisations – usually class societies) from getting onboard ships to inspect and sample. It also notes the increase in remote surveys (which IACS is saying should become a permanent digital tool for the industry).

The ballast water convention has been in force for four years, even though the text of the convention was agreed in 2004. If agreed, the shipowners’ proposal would mean penalties for non-compliance would not start until autumn 2024, just before it says that many Port State Control Organisations are planning concentrated inspection campaigns in 2025.

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