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Don’t spill my water

Wed 12 Jul 2017 by Paul Gunton

Don’t spill my water

I am a ‘glass-half-full’ sort of person and optimistic by nature: ‘Hope for the best’ is my life’s motto.

So I want to believe Liberia – which led the campaign behind the revised compliance dates at last week’s Marine Environment Protection Committee meeting (MEPC 71) – when it says it is “entirely committed to [the convention’s] effective and smooth implementation.” And I want to believe that the International Chamber of Shipping is sincere when it says that the delayed compliance dates are “a victory for common sense … to the benefit of the environment.”

But I worry that the environment is the loser here. Two more years of already-out-of-control alien invasions don’t seem to me to be a step forward.

Am I out of step here? Judging by comments BWTT reported this week from a member of the ship managers’ organisation Intermanager, it seems so. The delay would be welcomed “by the whole shipping community and by those who really care about the environment,” he or she said, “excluding the ones who have a commercial interest [such as] makers, yards and class.”

Well, that’s quite a large and important block of exclusions and many of the people who work in those organisations would say they, too, “really care about the environment” – whatever their commercial objectives.

The manufacturers I have contacted have expressed their concerns about the environment and about the commercial implications from the decision, both for them and the rest of the industry: they say that some will go out of business as a result of this delay, which will reduce owners’ choice when they do eventually invite installation tenders. That will also pose problems for those who have fitted BWMSs and then find their supplier has pulled out of the sector and no spares are available.

One manufacturer even expressed doubts – based on his conversations with insiders – that when the amendment reaches MEPC 72 in March it may not even be agreed.

If that were to happen it would put IMO in a difficult position. The US Coast Guard’s requirements are already effectively setting the global standard and if MEPC 72 were to reject these amendments to IMO’s Ballast Water Management Convention, the BWMC will have little practical relevance. If that were to happen, that would finally spill my half-full glass.

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