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Shipping has had its 'head in the sand' over ballast

Mon 05 Jun 2017 by Paul Gunton

Shipping has had its 'head in the sand' over ballast

The shipping community appears to have “had its head in the sand for years”, judging by Intercargo’s recent online article and submissions to next month’s Marine Environment Protection Committee meeting (MEPC 71), according to one industry consultant.

In a response last Friday (2 June) to BWTT’s report on 17 May of Intercargo’s remarks, Thomas Lillig, principal of the US- and Singapore-based consultancy LTK Maritime Consultancies, said “bringing these problems up five months before the Ballast Water Management Convention comes into force is bad planning at best and cynical at worst. These issues should have been looked into eight or nine years ago – after the first ballast water management systems (BWMSs) were type-approved.”

In a detailed review of Intercargo’s concerns, he said that the shipping industry “should have engaged with regulators and manufacturers, with this degree of attention and detail, many years ago.” Although he acknowledged that some owners “have engaged and shown commendable commitment to the issue … this is a small minority.”

Among the details he highlighted was Intercargo’s remarks about UV-based systems and the challenges of using them on gravity-discharging top side tanks. “It is generally known that the application of UV treatment is limited to flow rates of 2,000 to 3,000 m3/hr,” he said, yet “bulk carriers have discharge rates of 4,000 and up to 8,000 m3/hr, therefore UV systems will not be used on these carriers.” However, he said, there are nearly 30 type-approved BWMSs that can handle flow rates of 4,000 m3/hr or more.

Mr Lillig acknowledged that concerns about system performance are valid but asked why this uncertainty existed. “If we don’t use the BWMS, we cannot learn anything and do not gain experience on how to improve them,” he said. “The refusal to install and the reluctance to operate is the cause for the uncertainty.”

In conclusion, he said, “the Intercargo publication has some valuable points, but it should have been published 10 years ago.”

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