Mixed reactions have greeted last week’s decision by IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) to support later compliance dates for ballast water discharge standards.
Ship managers and owners have welcomed the decision, offering as it does some much-needed breathing space. Speaking to Marine Propulsion, the secretary general of the ship managers’ organisation InterManager, Kuba Szymanski, said that “pragmatism has won”. He hoped that, through this decision, “we could learn a valuable lesson – that co-operation is what creates win-win situations.”
He had invited some of the organisation’s members to offer their views and he passed on two of their initial comments, without naming the companies that had made them. One said the delay would be welcomed “by the whole shipping community and by those who really care about environment, excluding the ones who have a commercial interest [such as] makers, yards and class.”
Another had hoped that the revised compliance date would have simply been set as the first IOPP survey renewal on or after 8 September 2019. Otherwise, he believes it is unfair “to the shipowners who made decisions for deharmonisation of [their] IOPPC due to a lack of information and the age of their fleet.”
The International Chamber of Shipping issued a statement on 10 July quoting its director of policy, Simon Bennett, who described MEPC’s decision as “a victory for common sense that will allow shipping companies to identify and invest in far more robust technology to the benefit of the environment.”
It has given the industry “the clarity it needs to get on with the job and make the global implementation of this important piece of legislation a success,” Mr Bennett said.
By contrast, manufacturers have expressed disappointment over the decision. “I think it is entirely possible that many ballast water management system (BWMS) vendors will now leave the sector,” said Andrew Marshall, chief executive of Coldharbour Marine. He made his remarks in notes for the Ballast Water Expert Group run by the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science & Technology (IMarEST), saying that manufacturers may have either a lack of cash or a “lack of faith that the sector will ever generate a return on the considerable investments that they have made in good faith to develop, test and produce BWMS equipment to the standards that they were set.”
He was also concerned for owners “who did the right thing” and have invested in BWMS equipment. “If their previous vendor of choice decides to leave the market as a result of this delay, how will those owners secure spare parts or service provision for the equipment that they already have? Do they now have to invest again?”
Susanna Wyllie, global proposals manager at De Nora for its Balpure BWMS, said she was disappointed not only about the two-year delay but also that MEPC had retained the link to a ship’s International Oil Pollution Prevention Certificate (IOPPC). “Two years may not sound like a long extension,” she said in a statement today (11 July), “but with many owners choosing to renew their five-year IOPP certification on the cusp of entry into force, the reality is that this pushes industry compliance out by up to seven years.”
But she hoped that “we will see significantly more preparation from owners and operators in the next two years than we have seen in the 13 years since the adoption of the convention.” There is no shortage of equipment available, she suggested. “Over 50 ballast water treatment systems have IMO type-approval. Several systems already have USCG approval with many more, including Balpure, going through the approval process and certified under the USCG AMS. It is evident that the industry is well prepared to meet the entry into force deadline with full compliance,” she said.
“We are not happy with this,” said Tore Andersen, chief executive of Optimarin. “It is difficult to grow the business with additional testing and slow sales,” he said. “Where will makers get experience from, if shipowners do not install and use the equipment?” he asked. This delay is not good for owners, either, he said. In the short term, they can defer the cost, but “in the long run they risk having less competition.”
For many makers, “this could be the end,” he said. As for Optimarin, “we are lucky to have USCG type-approval and can get orders for ships [that need that].”
The US market was also welcomed by Tom Perlich, president of Ecochlor. “The majority of the shipowners in our target market (midsize to large bulkers and tankers) call frequently in the US,” he pointed out. With the USCG regulations already in place and USCG type-approval expected, “we are preparing for another record-breaking 2017 and an even busier 2018,” he said.
For the wider market, he hopes that shipowners “will use this extension period to plan for a smooth phase-in and gain valuable insight on their BWMS through operational experience.”
None of the manufacturers interviewed were surprised by MEPC’s decision, but Mark Riggio, senior market manager for Hyde Marine, was worried about the example it sets. “I am shocked by the thin logic used to push this delay and by how much IMO has allowed shipowner [organisations] to push the agenda,” he said. “This is setting a dangerous precedent for the organisation that, if not checked, may make future regulation difficult to pass,” he said.
He was also concerned about the USCG’s approach and drew attention to its Marine Safety Information Bulletin, issued on 30 June. “By [the USCG’s] own admission, shipowners are not complying with its rules … but they are not doing anything about it,” Mr Riggio said. “As long as they continue to ignore violations of their rule and IMO does not require installations, the damage to the environment will continue. In the end, that's what angers me the most.”
Some manufacturers looked for positive points in MEPC’s decision. What is important, said Anders Lindmark, Alfa Laval’s vice president responsible for its PureBallast BWMS, “is that IMO’s BWMC is ratified and will enter into force and that we have clarity of the implementation schedule for D-2 compliance.” He also underlined the fact that D-1 compliance will be mandatory from 8 September and that the requirements related to discharge in US waters are already in force.
Tore Andersen of Optimarin also saw a silver lining: “It looks like it is a final decision and no more delay can be made,” he said.
But Andrew Marshall of Coldharbour Marine was not so sure. “I am hearing rumblings that it is far from clear that this amendment will be adopted at MEPC 72,” he said. “Not all flag states are in agreement on this so the traditional consensus that underpins the operation of MEPC may be absent in March 2018.”
He also spoke of “at least two” unnamed owners who, “emboldened by just how easy it was to get IMO/MEPC to cave in this time, are preparing initiatives to not only further delay the convention for retrofits, but also to delay it for newbuildings.”
Whatever the outcome, he said, “the marine sector’s credibility is damaged by this delay, but perhaps not as damaged as the environment itself.”