West of England global head of loss prevention Simon Hodgkinson is a Master Mariner (Captain) whose role is to provide expertise and assessment of the P&I club’s issues
One of the main issues keeping him awake at night is claims due to lapsed exemptions on ballast water treatment systems (BWTS).
Ballast water treatment systems are, as one expert remarked, the gift that keeps on giving. In the case of West of England P&I club, the main issue is documentation, or to be exact, failing to update and amend documentation.
Capt Hodgkinson said one of the roles of his department is to provide advice. Taking the US as an example, his department is there to provide guidance on checklists on the requirements for entering US waters. On the ballast water side, that includes checking certificates and that the ballast water plan and ballast log is up to date.
“Not only should the plan be up to date, it should not be one from another vessel with the name crossed out,” said Capt Hodgkinson, hinting at some of the errors he has seen.
He warned that the crew should be aware of the existence of the ballast water plan, be able to answer questions on the plan and that the ballast log is up to date. It is imperative, he said, that vessels inform the US authorities before arrival if there is an issue with the ballast water treatment system and that the vessel is going to follow the alternative in the ballast water plan.
Capt Hodgkinson said the US Coast Guard has been relatively lenient in its approach but is applying a firmer hand now that there are more BWTS available that have been type-approved for use in US waters.
“The majority of cases (loss prevention) is seeing are not actually failures of ballast water treatment systems but lapses in paperwork. It is where a vessel has been granted an exemption, but the exemption has been allowed to lapse,” he said.
This must be frustrating for owners and insurers but there are often mitigating circumstances. It may be that the vessel was granted an exemption for US waters but had traded elsewhere. The return to US waters should have triggered a checklist that included a current exemption for the ballast water treatment system. In those circumstances, the US Coast Guard is unlikely to grant any leeway.
In most cases, the US Coast Guard will not allow a vessel with a defective ballast water treatment system to carry out cargo operations unless a deepwater ballast water exchange takes place or the water is treated onshore (an option that is becoming available).
When claims for ballast water treatment incidents arrive, the response from West of England will depend on the circumstances. If a crew member inadvertently discharges untreated ballast overboard because unbeknown to the crew the system was malfunctioning – the member is covered.
A vessel arriving at a port on the Mississippi with a broken ballast water treatment system and the member knew the system was malfunctioning but did nothing about it and let the crew keep on discharging untreated ballast – not covered.
Riviera Maritime Media will hold a series of 45-minute webinars during Ballast Water Webinar week commencing 16 February 2021. Sign up to attend here