There is concern among industry stakeholders that a rapid shift in focus towards biofouling could undermine efforts made in the ballast water management sector
Ballast water management system (BWMS) installations are set to spike over the new few months, and the challenges of implementation are being compounded by delays caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and its related restrictions. At a recent Riviera Maritime Media webinar, titled ’Overcoming bottlenecks on BWMS retrofit installation and operation’, sponsored by De Nora Water Technologies, key stakeholders discussed the problems they face and potential solutions.
Asked during the webinar whether the data from “properly done commissioning tests” could be used to support the experience building phase, Tim Wilkins, environment director, INTERTANKO, pointedly noted “Yes, but the key words here are ‘properly done’. We need to find some form of consistency in how the commissioning tests are undertaken. MEPC 74 saw a lot of exchanges on this and a lot of different opinions were expressed as to how detailed commissioning testing should be.”
Mr Wilkins explained that these various opinions, however conflicting, should be viewed as a positive, as they showed the subject was very much back on people’s radar, after the distractions of the run up to the IMO 2020 sulphur cap.
He explained that, if done in a consistent manner, the information gleaned from commissioning testing would be invaluable for the experience building phase. But he warned of a major problem in the form of the postponement of MEPC 75 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. He said this had compressed the experience building phase. “So it’s a question now back to the IMO, how are we going to deal with that? Can we extend the experience building phase to allow for more experience to be pushed into the system?”
If not, he feared it could take the rest of the decade to overcome problems that enter the process at this stage. “It will be up to 2029 before we start seeing systems effectively ironing out all of the problems we’re experiencing at the moment.”
“A shift in focus [away from ballast water] could result in a move away from the critical work we’ve still got to do”
During the webinar, discussion turned to biofouling and how this issue could cloud the matter of effective ballast water management. Mouawad Consulting chief executive Jad Mouawad felt IMO was “pushing hard” to move forward with biofouling regulations at the expense of ballast water concerns. “We need the regulators to follow what is happening in ballast water management because we’re not done yet. We are in the middle of the fight; we need to help and support shipowners and shipyards and perhaps consider granting extensions to the implementation period.”
He explained that the same teams working on ballast water management were also looking at biofouling and this was inevitably diluting their focus. “I’m afraid there will not be enough time for them to cope with what I think should be their [main] focus, which is how to implement the Convention,” he said.
That view was reinforced by INTERTANKO’s Mr Wilkins, who added “It is mainly the invasive species experts within the administrations that focus on biofouling and ballast water management. A shift in focus [away from ballast water] could result in a move away from the critical work we’ve still got to do in ballast water management.”
Concluded Mr Mouawad “We are moving a bit too fast and a bit too early on biofouling. I wish we could wait until at least 2024 before we start doing that.”
Watch the Overcoming bottlenecks on BWMS retrofit installation and operation webinar in our webinar library