Last week the Marine Environmental Protection Committee of the IMO met in London to give the welcome news to shipowners that compliance with the ballast water management convention, which is due to come into force on 8 September this year, can now be postponed until the same date in 2019 for existing vessels.
The details are that ships constructed after the 8 September this year must still comply on delivery, but that existing ships must comply by the time of the first International Oil Pollution Prevention (or IOPP) certificate renewal in 2019. Furthermore, it was also agreed that ships to which the IOPP renewal survey does not apply – ie vessels less than 400 gross tonnage – do not need to comply until 2024.
Naturally, this news has been welcomed by the shipping industry, alleviating as it does a further regulatory burden. That said, it was far from surprising. Indeed, it’s fair to say that the MEPC’s action were simply an acknowledgement of the reality that widespread compliance with the convention was simply not possible by September this year.
Lest we forget, however, the Ballast Water Management Convention was first adopted in 2004 to deal with what was then identified as an urgent environmental problem. However, by the time the last vessel that is required to do so is fitted with a ballast water management system, 20 years will have passed during most of which, ballast has continued to be discharged along – we must assume – with all the invasive alien species whose spread the convention was designed to prevent. It is impossible to know what damage will have been done in that time. Given which, is hard to see much to cheer in this announcement – or in the saga of the convention as a whole.