Before the shipping industry spends up to $60 billion installing new ballast water treatment technology, the World Shipping Council is calling for the International Maritime Organization to provide greater clarity, predictability, and investment certainty regarding the new legal measures involved.
In a recent issue of Container Insight, Drewry Maritime Research reports that roughly 62,000 vessels will need to install treatment technology under the IMO Convention once it enters into force. The technology may cost between $1 million to $2 million per ship.
There are two main legal bodies governing this issue, Drewry says. One is the IMO Ballast Water Management Convention, which enters into force one year after 30 or more UN member states ratify it and surpass 35 percent of the world’s merchant trade. Currently, the number of ratifications stands at 44 countries, representing 32.9 percent of the world’s tonnage. Clearly, the convention will enter into force after only a few more ratifications.
The second is U.S. law, which has both similarities and differences from the IMO Convention. Analysts say the U.S. regime has adopted the IMO Convention’s ballast water discharge treatment standard (the "D-2" standard), but requires equipment approval guidelines that are more rigorous than currently inadequate IMO equipment type guidelines.
If the IMO Convention enters into force before U.S.-type approved technology is commercially available,
Photo credit: Garitzko / Public domain
the authors assert that ship owners would have to install IMO type approved technology that might not meet the D-2 discharge standard and may not be acceptable in the U.S. trades.
The situation puts the industry in an untenable situation, researchers say, since IMO equipment approval guidelines are inadequate and no technology vendor has met or even applied to be approved under U.S. equipment guidelines.
Drewry concludes that "we are not there yet" in terms of finding a reasonable solution to the ballast water treatment equipment conundrum. Entry into force of the IMO Convention before the IMO has addressed the current problems with its regulatory equipment guidelines and before the U.S. has approved equipment types makes no sense. It would trigger a multi-billion dollar investment to install mandatory treatment technology that would not be accepted at all ports of call.