Speaking today before a conference on ballast water treatment regulation, World Shipping Council President Chris Koch outlined the conundrum facing the maritime industry caused by the lack of any globally accepted ballast water treatment technology.
While there is general, global acceptance of the IMO’s ballast water treatment discharge standard, there is today no globally accepted ballast water treatment technology that meets that standard – meaning that vessel operators could face an enormous capital investment in treatment technology that may be insufficient to meet regulatory obligations.
“If the IMO Ballast Water Management Convention enters into force before U.S. type approved technology is commercially available and before the IMO’s equipment type approval guidelines are amended to address their recognized problems, vessel owners would face a legal obligation under the Convention to install IMO type approved technology that may not reliably meet the Convention’s discharge standard and that may not be acceptable in the U.S. trades.”
Koch stated, “These shortcomings should be causing thoughtful governments that have not yet ratified the IMO Ballast Water Management Convention to pause before ratifying, because -- what nation wants to be the one that causes the Convention to come into force before these fundamental issues have been resolved? What nation wants to trigger a requirement on the industry to invest tens of billions of dollars in treatment technology if that investment does not offer the vessels certainty that they can trade anywhere in global commerce with regulatory confidence?
His remarks also discuss the important question of if and when the U.S. Coast Guard will type approve ballast water treatment technology. This question is relevant not only to vessel operators that are calling U.S. ports now, or who may in the future wish to deploy their ships in U.S. commerce, but also to those who lack confidence that existing IMO type approvals provide sufficient investment or regulatory certainty.
“What the regulations that require this multi-billion investment should provide is certainty that the technology installed, if properly operated, will meet the vessel’s regulatory ballast water treatment obligation for the life of the vessel in any port that it calls. We are not there yet.”