Shipowners can operate into US waters for up to 10 years without fitting a US Coast Guard (USCG) type-approved ballast water management system (BWMS), believes Mark Riggio, senior market manager for Hyde Marine, which makes the Hyde Guardian treatment system.
His advice is based on a USCG Marine Safety Information Bulletin (MSIB 010/16) that was issued last July but which attracted little attention at the time. Now, with USCG type-approvals being issued, Mr Riggio believes that its guidance has gained urgent significance and there may be just a few months remaining for shipowners to take advantage of its provisions, he told BWTT.
The MSIB was an update to the USCG’s Alternate Management System (AMS) scheme which allows ships to be fitted with IMO type-approved systems that have been granted AMS status. But Mr Riggio expects that once sufficient systems have received USCG type-approval to provide a broad range of technology options, the AMS scheme will be ended.
For ships that are eligible for an extension to their normal USCG compliance date, last July’s MSIB provides two opportunities to install and use an AMS for several years, even if that scheme is ended in the next few months.
First, for a ship drydocking this year, its extended compliance date would be five years after that docking, taking it to 2022. And if it has installed an AMS before its extended compliance date, it can continue to use that system for a further five years: until 2027 in this scenario.
Even if the AMS scheme has ended by its compliance date, the MSIB explained that an owner can install an AMS up to that time, even if a USCG type-approved system has become available, provided the owner had entered into a contract to install the AMS before the ship’s compliance date. The system could be supplied and installed up to 2022 and operated until 2027.
An owner could still choose to fit a USCG type-approved system once the ship’s compliance date approaches but contracting an AMS system now, “locks in their ability to use an AMS system,” he said. “So if for any reason they don’t want to use the type-approved systems that are available at that time, it gives them time to use the systems that they want.” With the AMS scheme likely to come to an end, the next few months offer “a good window for shipowners who need worldwide compliance today,” Mr Riggio said.
He believes that BWMS prices will rise as demand grows and for older ships, this opportunity could mean that they never have to fit a USCG-approved BWMS. For a 15-year old ship, for example, the options set out in the MSIB mean that it could operate until it is 25 years old when “you are going to scrap it anyway,” Mr Riggio said. In the meantime, “you are essentially risk free and you have bought a system at a historically low price.”
For BWMS suppliers who may not secure USCG type-approval for some months – such as Hyde Marine, which will begin USCG testing in March – securing orders during this period could be vital, Mr Riggio agreed. Some manufacturers “could see sales erode to nearly nothing,” he said. “It is very important to us to get this message to shipowners so they know they have these options,” he said.
Otherwise, “If AMS closes down and owners don’t take this opportunity, they going to wake up one morning and find they can’t buy or install [their preferred system].”