Paul Gunton reflects on a few key developments of the past year and wonders what they really mean
We are just about to go to press with our annual Ballast Water Treatment Technology guide, which gives me an opportunity to take stock of how things have moved on over the past year and fire the gun for the next 12 months of my news reports and commentary ramblings.
My comment page in the printed publication highlights some of the important changes over the past year but – equally important – some of the things that have stayed the same. That article is already available online – thanks to the wonder of ‘web-first’ publishing – so I will not repeat all its points here.
Instead, I will reflect on what I think is the significance of some of those changes and non-changes.
In my comment, I mention the growing number of flag states that have ratified IMO’s Ballast Water Management Convention. In terms of the percentage of the world fleet they represent, it is now double the 35% needed to bring it into force. Does it matter? Not in terms of the convention’s effect. What would be interesting to hear is why the new recruits did not ratify it earlier and whether their earlier concerns have been allayed or whether they have taken the view that ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’.
In my comments about US developments, I note that the US Coast Guard type-approvals and applications are mounting up and the Environmental Protection Agency is due to issue an updated Vessel General Permit. The type-approvals matter because owners want their system to be USCG type-approved so when 'the retrofit rush comes, they need to be sure there will be enough to choose from. I think there will be, but it will be a close call.
As for the revised VGP, the delay in releasing a draft is confusing. My guess – and it is only a guess – is that this is related to President Trump’s commitment to unwind a lot of environmental policy and that EPA staff have been busy doing that instead of revising the 194-page VGP.
Among the things that have stayed the same is my surprise at the number of ballast water management systems now available. Does the world need 97 to choose from? An online search will find many studies that show how giving customers more choices makes them more likely to defer or even abandon their purchasing decision. So, no: we do not need 97 BWMS options. But which manufacturers would choose to pull out of the market for that reason?
I’ll not say any more here, but I would like you to say more here. Tell me what you think about the points I have raised in these few words and in my longer BWTT comment. Make some predictions for the year ahead: I have made some in my comment article but you may have a different perspective. This time next year, I’ll check which of our horses have finished near the front and which ones fell at the first.