MEPC 76 was disappointing for the ballast water treatment sector: most of the issues stakeholders consider vital were pushed back to make way for greenhouse gas (GHG) issues. The implications are that ballast water is fading in importance, but the deadlines remain the same
As part of the Riviera Maritime Media’s Ballast Water Webinar Week, ABS Global Sustainability Center senior principal engineer William (Bill) Burroughs and INTERTANKO environment director Tim Wilkins examined the changes made to the agenda of MEPC 76 and the longer term implications for the ballast water industry and shipowners in the What IMO MEPC 76 means for ballast water treatment webinar.
Mr Burroughs took the opportunity to review the development of IMO’s Ballast Water Management Code (BWM Code), in particular the resolutions and circulars that are coming into force. Resolution MEPC.325(75) Amendments to regulation E-1 and appendix I was adopted at MEPC 75 and enters into force in June 2022. This applies to the ballast water management certificate.
The second key point was the guidance on commission testing (BWM.2/Circ.70/Rev.1 2020 Guidance for the commissioning testing of ballast water management systems) and thirdly, the guidance on ballast water sampling and analysis (BWM.2/Circ.42/Rev.2 2020). These are important guidelines for compliance monitoring devices.
He said, “Everyone should realise compliance monitoring devices are an important part of port state control’s (PSC) attempt to validate whether or not your ballast water management system is working sufficiently.”
To achieve that stage, there has to be confidence in the compliance monitoring devices and confidence in how PSC is using the devices to test ballast water when a ship is in port. This was one of the information papers that was placed with IMO for discussion at MEPC 76 (MEPC 76/4/1 ISO update on standardisation work for a verification testing protocol for compliance monitoring devices). Unfortunately, IMO rejigged the agenda to address short-term solutions to GHG issues.
Although a working group (Correspondence Group on Development of a Protocol for Verification of Ballast Water Compliance Monitoring Devices) has been set up, that will not report back until 2022 at PPR 9.
Mr Burrough’s role with ABS gives him insight into the activities of IACS, which sets the cross classification standards. He noted that IACS is developing Annex 18 of UR Z17 Procedural Requirements for Service Suppliers. “This allows IACS members to agree upon what it means for an applicant who wants to do your biological testing, for commissioning testing your ballast water management system, how together IACS is going to agree on qualifying them, their procedures, their equipment, and validate them so that one entity can be used by multiple class societies on different ships,” he said.
This is clearly a very important step toward unifying the approach to ballast water compliance testing.
One issue that vexed Mr Burroughs was the failure to include an analysis and discussion on MEPC 76/4/3, which was an update on the experience-building phase associated with the Ballast Water Management Convention. He said “this is very important to me, because I fear the industry is going to move on and pretend the experience-building phase is a success.”
He hoped the experience-building phase would include a live trial of the compliance monitoring devices and the delivery of real-life data on the efficacy of these devices, which are going to be used by PSC around the world to monitor ballast water treatment systems.
Such is the concern over the possible outcome of the experience-building phase (EBP) that three polls were devoted to discovering the general consensus on EBP during the webinar.
Poll 1: Prior to today’s webinar, were you aware of the non-penalisation provisions provided by the EBP of the BWM Convention? A confidence-inspiring outcome would have been a majority of 80% or more responding positively, but the result was 52% No, and only 48% replying Yes.
Poll 2 explored if there was PSC awareness of the EBP: Are you aware of any PSC inspections (your vessels or other managers, etc) where PSC has deferred any findings due to EBP non-penalisation provisions? Again, the result was disappointing – 93% were unaware of PSC inspections where PSC has deferred any findings due to EBP non-penalisation provisions.
Poll 3 looked into the flow of information gathered in the EBP: Have you or your management company provided your vessel’s flag Administrations with information that would advise the MEPC during the information-gathering phase of the experience-building phase of the BWM Convention? The result of this poll was also disappointing – only 42% had provided vessel’s flag Administrations with information that would advise the MEPC during the information-gathering phase of the EBP of the BWM Convention.
Mr Wilkins represents an organisation that delivered a jointly produced paper to MEPC 76. “We (INTERTANKO) and several member states had prepared submissions because they were time sensitive and important. Having a deferral for another five months before IMO can take some form of considered action or opinion could have an impact on the industry.”
He noted there had been very little focus on compliance and record keeping, but these are the practical problems that are now facing INTERTANKO members. “We presented a case based on a guidance document we issued last year to INTERTANKO members, which opens up the whole question of what is a correct entry in the ballast water record book. This is very different to the oil record book that has very specific coding,” he said.
This ambiguity is causing problems not just for owners and operators, but also for PSC, inspectors and class. Taking ballast water exchange as an example, there are three generally accepted methods, but there is nowhere in the ballast water record book to record the specifics. This is leading PSC to provide its own interpretations and a wide range of outcomes.
In the INTERTANKO member survey, the ballast water record book generated 265 deficiencies, versus only nine for ballast water management systems. “It is not necessarily that things are wrong, it is just a difference of interpretation,” he said.
The second element is ports with challenging water quality. This can be sediment-rich water or cold water which forces a slowdown in the ballast water treatment systems, and a subsequent slowing of cargo handling. Since March 2021, INTERTANKO has received 384 reports on 168 ports with challenging water quality. He noted that this is a significant problem, as INTERTANKO has a membership covering 4,000 tankers, a fraction of the global shipping fleet. The delay of five months until MEPC 77, and no guarantee this issue will be on the agenda, makes this a time-sensitive issue.
Mr Burrough’s takeaway was that it was crucial to provide feedback during the non-penalisation of the EBP – operators, class and administrations need to report on how ballast water treatment systems are working, as well as when failures take place.
Mr Wilkins also addressed the lack of awareness of the purpose of the EBP in his takeaway, and the issue of challenging water and the entries into the ballast water record book. All these issues need to be addressed, at least at MEPC 77, if progress is to be made in tuning the legislation. “Find that information, send it to the right people so it can be fed into the system with produce a better piece of legislation in two or three years’ time,” he said.