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Ballast water convention dates expected to slip

Jun 9, 2017

There has been a great deal of speculation in recent weeks about the possible delay in implementation of the much-heralded Ballast Water Management Convention. Having been originally adopted back in 2004, it was due to become enforceable in September 2017, but a number of nations including the UK, Brazil and Liberia have been making noises about asking for a delay.

While there will be a number of reasons for such a call, one reason is that many shipping organisations have left things very late to ensure they comply on time. The industry has known about the timeline for the Ballast Water Convention date for a number of years, but as September 2017 gets ever closer organisations are now running out of time to make sure they remain compliant.

For some, the reason for leaving things late is purely one of economics. The installation of ballast water treatment systems can be expensive, especially perhaps for something that’s not going to generate any actual revenue, so they have delayed matters until the last minute. This may seem a sensible strategy, but in recent months some have realised that late installation may not be as easy as they thought.

Suppliers are struggling to keep up with the sudden demand

Several suppliers of the relevant equipment around the world have found that, with a late flurry of orders, they’re struggling to keep up with demand. Whereas a year or two ago they may not have been overly busy, they are now running flat out to meet orders, and of course they may even be in a position now where they have to turn down or delay further orders.

If there is a delay in the legal framework, it will provide some relief to those struggling to implement treatment systems and suppliers to fulfil orders. But the fact remains – action to prevent the spread of invasive species around the world needs to happen sooner rather than later to ensure the both future of the industry and our eco systems thrive. The authorities will need to take this into consideration when making a decision about possible delays.

The matter will be discussed in further detail at the Marine Environment Protection Committee 71, where the MEPC may face pressure from some quarters to move legislation back to 2019. A suitable compromise may be offered, in that the implementation of the convention will go ahead as planned in 2017, but the permitted installation period for equipment will be extended from the current five years to ten years instead. The industry, as you can imagine, is holding its breath.

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