Celsius Shipping’s chief operating officer Niels Stig Christensen believes shipowners have been too passive when it comes to accepting regulations
There was a lot of talk at the 2019 Tanker Shipping & Trade conference about ballast water treatment and compliance. From what we have heard, the testing of treated ballast water is going to be far more expensive than testing for fuel compliance. In fuel testing, the only requirement is to look for one thing – the level of sulphur. In testing for compliance with ballast water treatment, there are far more elements.
Obviously, we have to talk about ballast water treatment systems (BWTS) because it is a regulation that we have to live with; my problem with it is that the focus is on the shipowner, rather than on shore side. Capt. Ian Finley of International Parcel Tankers Association (IPTA) used to call the Ballast Water Management Convention ‘a treaty from Hell’ as it placed a burden on shipowners to install a system onboard their vessels, despite no useful technology existing at the time it was agreed.
Tramp shipowners trade worldwide and require a BWTS that works in freshwater, brackish and saltwater and variations of clear to muddy water. Few such systems are capable of complying in all situations and why should they? It is an almost impossible engineering and scientific task to produce a system that complies with all scenarios and that will work in the environment onboard a ship. Shipowners know this and we know that half the ballast water systems will not work as designed; rather, they will operate at much reduced capacity, resulting in longer time alongside, slower terminal turn-around and more congestion.
The only thing we can say with certainty is that a BWTS will only work efficiently if it is designed and optimised for a specific and limited environment. That means the only BWTS that can work consistently within a particular port’s parameters is one designed for that port where the ballast water is taken.
In my opinion, it should never have been agreed to place the BWTS on the ship. It should have been a requirement for the various ports to provide clean ballast water and to receive dirty ballast water. The scenario should be that when a tanker arrives at the terminal, the ballast water tanks are hooked up at the same time as the cargo tanks and the transfer is controlled for both. The port should have a treatment system which can treat the different types of ballast (salinity and/or muddy conditions) as well as a holding/buffer tank that will enable a slow treatment process, but without delay to the vessels. The use of the port BWTS is included as another cost within the port fees.
Another point is the state of the water in the port. In some ports, all the industries’ effluents are flowing into the river served by the port. There may be all manner of chemicals and industrial pollutants in the water. In some cases, local river water is effectively hazardous waste, and this is being sucked into the ballast tanks. The ship’s ballast water system cannot nullify these pollutants.
When the vessel comes to discharge this water at the next port, and it is tested for compliance, it will become a big issue. And who will have to pay? The innocent shipowner.
The main problem is that IMO is huge and ponderous and is being outmanoeuvred by the EU Parliament, the US authorities and by regional regulations. These regulations are to appease the local population, which will target the outside enemy – the ship. No one considers why the ship has arrived – to aid the import and export of goods.
Therefore, as shipowners, we should make this point and push for a proper shore infrastructure. We should say to nations that, if you want imports and exports to be conducted in an environmentally friendly manner, you need to provide the infrastructure. There should be a forum other than IMO; one which is focused upon environmentally safe shipping in a sensible way. There should be a global shipping forum for all vessel types that speaks directly to nations and reverses the ballast water treatment on the ships. As a unified global group, we ought to have the power to say, ‘if you want effective ballast water treatment then the port has to provide it’. If there is no adequate ballast water treatment available, then vessels will have to call elsewhere.