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Offshore Support Journal

Ballast Water Treatment Technology

Tanker operators want certainty on ballast water treatment process

Fri 18 May 2018 by Paul Gunton

Tanker operators want certainty on ballast water treatment process
Tim Wilkins (Intertanko): Shipowners face “a huge bureaucratic and administrative nightmare” over contingency planning (credit: Intertanko)

Intertanko has published a guide to contingency options when ballest water treatment is not possible

Confusion over what shipowners should do if they have problems treating ballast water has prompted the tanker owners organisation Intertanko to publish its own guide. Tanker operators need certainty over what contingency measures they can use, its environment director Tim Wilkins told sister publication Tanker Shipping and Trade.

Although IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee issued a circular after its 71st meeting (MEPC 71) in July 2017 describing contingency measures, it allowed port states to set their own preferences. As a result, operators cannot be certain what options are available to them, or what information port states will ask for, when deciding what a ship should do if it cannot treat its ballast, Mr Wilkins said.

“If you speak to anybody who has installed systems, they will tell you that it is a struggle to ensure that they are all operating 100% correctly, 100% of the time,” he said. But because different states take different approaches, they face “a huge bureaucratic and administrative nightmare” in dealing with contingency planning. “If there were a standardised way of reporting the failure and filing an application to undertake a contingency measure, it would make life more straightforward and process orientated,” Mr Wilkins said.

In an effort to provide guidance to its members, in March Intertanko published a 19-page guide, Ballast Water Contingency Measures for Tankers. It includes some model reporting forms that Mr Wilkins has developed from documents used by some Intertanko members.

Reaction to the guide had been favourable, he said, two weeks after its publication. Some flag-state administrations had asked for copies and other shipping organisations had also seen it, he added. The guide has now been made publicly available on Intertanko’s website, via

Intertanko distributed some copies of the guide during MEPC 72 in April this year and will submit it to MEPC 73 in October as an information document. It will request that IMO member states note its initiative, but will not request any action to be taken. A draft copy had earlier been passed to the US Coast Guard for its review; it did not raise any objections with it, Mr Wilkins said. Even the US has no consistent approach, he pointed out, because each ‘captain of the port’ region can set its own contingency requirements.

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