BWM Rules Threaten Small-Sized Ships

An amended implementation scheme for ships to comply with the D-2 biological standard under the Ballast Water Management Convention (BWMC) was tentatively accepted at the 71st session of the IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 71).

The MEPC delayed the implementation schedule for existing ships to comply with the Convention, which aims to stem the transfer of potentially invasive species in ships’ ballast water. The treaty enters into force on September 8, 2017, and from the date of entry into force, ships will be required to manage their ballast water.
As the expenses of fitting older ships with the necessary equipment could reach up to USD 2 million, certain market estimates showed that owners might opt to demolish such vessels instead of making them compliant with the Convention.
In an effort to find out more about the side effects of the BWM Convention, World Maritime News spoke with Christos Efstathiou, Technical Director of the Greek ship classification society International Naval Surveys Bureau (INSB Class).



Christos Efstathiou, Technical Director, INSB Class

Although the fitting expenses are steep, Efstathiou said that it is still early to comment safely whether owners will decide to scrap their vessels instead of retrofitting them with ballast water management systems (BWMS). He added that small-sized ships could face a serious challenge, as shipowners will have no option than to scrap their vessels, unless the price of the systems drops.
On the other hand, shipowners’ decision on larger vessels will depend on the price of the BWMS when the time comes to install the system on board their vessels, as well as on the shipping environment and freight rate levels. Efstathiou added that the price of the BWMS is expected to drop below USD 0.5 million.
In late 2016, Moore Stephens informed that vessel operating expenses for both 2016 and 2017 were expected to rise, mainly driven by upgrades being made ahead of September 8, 2017. With the pressure also arising from an overall depression seen in the shipping industry, Efstathiou believes that the shipowners are not willing to invest in retrofits.
The increase of the operational expenses in conjunction with the reduced freights, have already put considerable pressure on shipowners leading to the current trend of cost containment. Speaking from an engineering point of view, Efstathiou pointed out that the retrofit of a ship with a BWMS is quite challenging.
 “The choice of the system depends on the size of the ship and consequently on the space available, as well as on the system’s compatibility with the ship. In this respect, the advantages and disadvantages of the various technologies used have to be taken into consideration, since there is a spectrum of power parameters that should be considered. A risk assessment should take place in order to identify the impact of the operation of the system, generation of dangerous gases, spillages, exposure to chemicals, power consumption, the stability of the ship, and other related parameters.”

WMN: Are shipowners ready to comply with the requirements of the Ballast Water Management Convention?

Efstathiou: To our experience, the majority of shipowners are trying to extend the compliance with the applicable requirements, to the extreme limit. It seems that only very few shipowners are willing to install a ballast water management system in order to comply with the D-2 ballast water performance standard, prior to the deadline. Although the majority of the shipowners are aware of their obligations towards the BWM Convention, it seems that the level of their preparedness to comply with the new requirements still remains at an average level.

When asked about the major challenges of classification societies in helping owners adhere to the new rules, Efstathiou said that the challenge lies in assisting shipowners to opt for the most convenient ballast water management system that will suit their vessel, having in mind the size of the ship, the available space for installation of the system and the individual characteristics of each vessel.
According to the IMO resolution A.1088 (28), the majority of flag administrations have connected the retrofitting of the ballast water management with the first renewal survey associated with the International Oil Pollution Prevention Certificate under MARPOL Annex I, that will be carried out after September 8, 2017.
Commenting on the “grace period” provided to shipowners to undertake the retrofit during their next survey if it occurs after the entry into force date, Efstathiou said that the majority of flag administrations have accepted the de-harmonization of the said survey from the rest of the applicable statutory surveys.
As the shipowners of the existing ships are arranging their vessels to pass renewal IOPP survey before the implementation date, the retrofitting of the BWM system will be delayed by almost 5 years.
“As it was expected, having in mind the present strangled international economic environment and the present level of freight rates, shipowners are clearly in favor of the delay of implementation of the BWM Convention and especially in favor of the delay to the retrofitting of the BWMS, and consequently are supporting this position,” Efstathiou concluded.

On July 7, 2017, at its 71th session, the IMO Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC) approved draft amendments of the Ballast Water Management (BWM) Convention, adding two years to the global installation process, thus giving many vessel owners more time to comply.

The BWM Convention introduces two standards for the handling of discharged ballast water, namely the D-1 standard covering ballast water exchange and D-2 covering ballast water treatment, and requires compliance with either the D-1 or the D-2 standard on or after September 8, 2017.

There will be a transitional period from this date when only compliance with the D-1 standard is required, until compliance with the D-2 standard becomes mandatory.