Lars-Robert Pedersen, the general secretary of shipping association BIMCO has expressed doubts about the likelihood of compliance with the 2020 global sulphur cap.
Speaking at the recent workshop of the Exhaust Gas Cleaning Systems Association, Mr Pedersen said: “It’s not as simple as compliance or non-compliance. We are not sure we understand what compliance actually means.”
Mr Pedersen went on to explain that the various exemptions allowed for things like non-availability of compliant fuel or safety issues could mean that significant loopholes exist that could allow ships to carry on burning non-compliant fuel.
As well as these exemptions, Mr Pedersen pointed out that only around half of IMO member states are parties to Marpol, meaning that many vessels flying those flags will have no rule from their flag states dictating to them what fuel to use. This, of course, will put the onus on the port states to decide how to enforce the law.
Outlining the worst-case scenario, Mr Pedersen said that, without greater clarity, there could be large-scale non-compliance come 2020 and that the regulation as it stands has the potential to “cause chaos”.
States rush to beat BWMC deadline
Four states ratified IMO’s Ballast Water Management Convention (BWMC) in one week in June in a move apparently timed to beat a deadline set out in the convention’s entry-into-force criteria.
The Bahamas and Singapore deposited their instruments of accession on 8 June, a day after Australia had ratified and two days after the United Arab Emirates had done the same, on Tuesday (6 June). They brought the number of states party to the BWMC to 59, representing 65.18 per cent of the world’s merchant fleet tonnage.
By ratifying by 8 June, the convention will enter into force for these states on 8 September, along with every other state that has ratified it so far. Article 18 of the convention, which addresses its entry into force, specifies that, for states that ratify the convention after its requirements for entry into force have been met but before its entry into force, their ratification “shall take effect on the date of entry into force of this convention or three months after the date of deposit of instrument, whichever is the later date.”
Most other conventions have similar clauses, in line with the UN’s Vienna Treaty, which sets out parameters for “any treaty that is the constituent instrument of an international organisation.”
Shipping has had its 'head in the sand' on 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.
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.”