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Pushing all the right ballasting buttons

Tue 02 May 2017 by Paul Gunton

Pushing all the right ballasting buttons

Paul Gunton reflects on lessons he learned from the European Ballast Water Treatment Technology conference

I am recording this video just a few days after chairing our European Ballast Water Treatment Technology conference and when it all was said and done, the debate came down to this: how many buttons should there be on a ballast water management system. One speaker said there should be just two: on and off, with all the clever stuff done automatically behind the scenes.

So I asked the manufacturers who were present to put up their hands if they could match that specification. How many went up? None.

One said his system had three, which the speaker would accept provided the third button was to toggle between IMO and US Coast Guard operating modes. It wasnít.

I can understand this quest for simplicity. We heard about crew training, for example. Based on his experience with other types of equipment, another speaker recalled his time at sea. New equipment would be fitted during a drydocking and the crew would be shown how to use it. Then as the docking ended, that crew would go on leave and the new kit was left in the care of their untrained replacements.

If this is whatís going to happen when ballast water management systems are installed, no wonder shipowners would like them to be as simple as possible to operate.

Now, hereís something else we would like to be simple: how ports will respond to their responsibilities under the convention. The conference was taking place in Amsterdam so who better to tell us than the policy adviser on the environment and dangerous goods from the portís harbour masterís division?

He knew his stuff and his paper and the questions that followed showed me how little I really understood about the boundaries between a portís responsibility and that of the regional port state control authority. I donít think I was alone in coming to that realisation.

So here we are, with just over four months before IMOís convention comes into force, and still we discovering there are things we donít know or donít understand. Wouldnít it be nice if, on 8th September, all we had to do was hit the conventionís On button and know that everything will run smoothly.

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