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Have IMO ballast delays set a precedent?

Wed 09 Aug 2017 by Paul Fanning

Have IMO ballast delays set a precedent?

Paul Fanning asks if the MEPC’s acceptance of delays on ballast water management open the door to something similar on the global sulphur cap

The recent decision by the Marine Environment Protection Committee of the IMO to allow delays to compliance with the Ballast Water Management Convention has been seen by some as a victory for common sense.

Many feel that it is simply an acknowledgement of the practical reality that compliance within the given timeframe was simply going to prove impossible.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of that argument, this decision has had repercussions in other areas, since it has raised the question of whether similar delays will be allowed on the Global Sulphur Cap, due to come into force in January 2020.

It should be said that, on this issue, the IMO is emphatic that this will not be the case. It maintains that the 2020 deadline was based on the findings of its low-sulphur fuel availability survey and that there will be no shifting from this.

However, other voices point to the fact that a rival survey suggested there were likely to be availability problems, which – in combination with possible problems fitting scrubbers in good time, could make timely compliance impossible.

For the moment, of course, the industry has to proceed on the basis that the Cap will come into force in 2020. However, given the flexibility shown on the ballast water deadline, it is entirely understandable that some may feel the IMO has set a precedent.