The shipping industry has supported efforts to address aquatic invasive species through ballast water treatment (BWT) standards, but for a capital expenditure of over USD 60 billion, a legal regime that offers greater clarity, predictability, and investment certainty is needed, according to World Shipping Council’s President and CEO Robert Koch.
Currently, there are two principal legal regimes governing this issue, the IMO Ballast Water Management Convention, which will enter into force one year after ratifications by 30 or more member states that surpass 35% of the world’s merchant tonnage, and the US law, which has important similarities and important differences from the IMO Convention, Koch claims.
The US regime has adopted the IMO Convention’s ballast water discharge treatment standard (the ”D-2” standard), which confirms a uniform international regulatory objective, but insists on equipment type approval guidelines that are more rigorous than the currently inadequate IMO-type approval guidelines.
What a ship operating in international commerce needs is a uniform approach to vessel discharge requirements and to the equipment needed to meet those requirements, argues Koch.
But, there is no globally accepted ballast water treatment technology. The IMO’s equipment type approval guidelines remain inadequate and have not been remedied, and no technology vendor has yet met, or even applied to be approved under, US equipment type approval guidelines, says Koch.
If the IMO Convention enters into force before US-type approved technology is commercially available (and before the IMO G8 guidelines are amended to address their problems), vessel owners would face an obligation under the Convention to install IMO type approved technology that may not reliably meet the D-2 discharge standard and that may not be acceptable in the US trades. This has been – and continues to be – an unreasonable and troubling dilemma facing the industry. according to Koch.
The outcome that no vessel operator wants to see is the mandatory installation of treatment technology that will not be accepted at all ports the vessel may call either because it lacks U.S. type approval or because it fails to meet the prescribed discharge treatment standard.