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Ballast Water Treatment Technology

No level playing field as BWMC approaches

Thu 18 May 2017

No level playing field as BWMC approaches
Robert North (IRI): If a Marshall Island-flagged ship were detained, its inspectors would help “develop a pragmatic BWM approach” (credit: IRI)

Despite IMO’s convention nearing its entry into force, there will still be a range of national requirements

With IMO’s Ballast Water Management Convention (BWMC) coming into force in September and the US Coast Guard (USCG) already operating its inspection regime, it would seem that shipowners and operators can look forward to predictable requirements wherever they trade.

But that may not be the case. Rob Collins, a shipping and trade specialist at the law firm Clyde & Co, told the 6th IMarEST Ballast Water Conference in January that many jurisdictions “are doing their own thing”. He had asked each of the firm’s global offices to say how their local state was planning to implement the BWMC. “It was notable how many colleagues said they could not provide any meaningful response.”

Ideally, a country that has ratified the BWMC should apply it but he distilled three other reactions: one country that has not ratified and is operating its own requirements, another that has not ratified but is effectively following the convention and one that has ratified but is not planning to apply. “It is concerning, to say the least,” he said.

One state that was not included in his analysis is Australia. It has not ratified the BWMC and started applying its 2015 Biosecurity Act in June 2016, which includes ballast water provisions. The act references a list of 59 approved BWMSs that meet Australia’s requirements.

Australia’s Department of Agriculture and Water Resources confirmed to BWTT that “for international shipping, the requirements of the new act now apply.” Experience so far showed that “some operators require greater clarity to differentiate between a BWMS type-approval certificate and a ballast water management plan,” its spokesman said.

Cyprus is another state that has not ratified the BWMC, but Ioannis Efstratiou, acting director of its Department of Merchant Shipping, said it is planning to ratify. He told BWTT that following its accession, Cyprus’ port state control officers will verify that visiting ships are compliant. He did not indicate when it plans to ratify the convention.

Saudi Arabia has also not ratified the convention but is gearing up to apply it when it enters into force. In readiness, from 1 May, the state oil company Saudi Aramco will start a pilot project at Ras Tanura and Juaymah, requiring all ships calling at those ports to have their ballast water sampled by an approved inspection agency, at the ship’s cost.

In a note to its customers in March, the ship agent Cory Brothers advised that masters will have to declare their test status during the trial. If this is non-compliant, the ship’s flag state and class will be advised, along with Saudi government agencies, but ships will not be detained.

As with national policies, regional approaches to port state ballast inspections are not yet finalised. The Republic of the Marshall Islands, for example, is a member of the Tokyo MOU and has a representative on a working group developing guidelines for the Tokyo MOU region. Among port states’ responsibilities under the convention is a requirement to deal with ballast tank sediments and these polices, too, are still to be decided, RADM Robert North USCG (rtd), consultant to IRI/The Marshall Islands Registry, said.

 • For details of Australia’s ballast water management requirements go to and for its list of approved BWMS go to

A longer version of this section is available on the BWTT website.


Three states, three statements of intent

Clyde & Co’s research across its global offices revealed a confusing picture of how states will apply IMO’s Ballast Water Management Convention (BWMC). But Rob Collins, a shipping and trade specialist at the firm, singled out three countries that each illustrated a particular approach: China, India and South Africa.

China has not ratified the convention and has had its own laws since 2001. It views ballast water in the same light as hazardous substances and pollutants and requires ships to be sanitised before discharging ballast water. “The position in China is very unclear,” Mr Collins said. “Are they going to follow the convention and develop their laws in parallel or ignore it completely?”

India has not ratified the convention but it is following it in many ways. All Indian-flagged vessels above 400gt and engaged in international voyages have to. If a vessel calls in Indian waters that is flagged in a country that has ratified the convention, India’s authorities will police it. It is taking the convention seriously without ratifying it, Mr Collins said.

South Africa ratified the BWMC in April 2008 and in 2013 the country’s Department of Transport published a bill to enact the convention’s provisions but has not brought it into law. “Whether that will change in September we do not know,” Mr Collins said.

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