- IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) first discussed ballast water treatment in 1991.
- 2022 could see a record number of ballast water treatment system retrofit installations.
- 2022 will see a new alternative for vessels beyond USCG compliance dates to be compliant.
IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) first discussed ballast water treatment in 1991, and debate is set to continue at MEPC 78 in June 2022 – and beyond, says an article published on Riviera website.
In June 2022, biological efficacy commissioning testing will become mandatory for installed ballast water treatment systems. This has been confused with type-approval of ballast water treatment systems by IMO or the US Coast Guard (USCG) and seen as a tick box exercise.
It is far from that and can take four or five days to complete. 2022 will likely see some high profile failures and delays (a three-month extension can be granted) while crews are trained to properly understand how to operate the systems and respond to alarms.
One positive outcome of MEPC 77 was to clear up the language around the date of testing: If a ballast water treatment systems is installed in conjunction with an initial or additional survey on or after June 1st 2022, commissioning testing should be conducted.
2022 could see a record number of ballast water treatment system retrofit installations – in fact this will have to happen in 2022, 2023 and 2024 if the shipping industry is to achieve the deadline for compliance with IMO’s Ballast Water Management Convention on 8 September 2024.
In December 2021, it has become apparent that at the current rate of progress, there will be a huge shortfall in vessels fitted with ballast water treatment systems. The issue is compounded by the experience owners and operators are having with the systems already installed.
Anecdotal evidence of ships having to halt cargo loading due to clogging filters or lack of crew familiar with the systems is easy to find. These experiences should be passed on to World Maritime University in Malmo, which is collecting data on the experience building phase.
Challenging water and the experience building phase
2022 might see an update on challenging water and an extension of the experience building phase (EBP). Some ports, such as those on the Yangtze or the Elbe, have a high degree of suspended sediment.
This can clog filters or degrade the effectiveness of treatment systems. Several papers were submitted to MEPC77 on the subject. MEPC 77’s view was to move this subject for further analysis at MEPC 78 in 2022.
Several shipowner and operator organisations submitted papers to MEPC 77 in November 2021 asking for extension of the EBP into 2024, but this was not considered. MEPC was told there is now available data from 35 member states and seven other stakeholders, corresponding to approximately 15,000 ships.
The data submitted to the World Maritime University will be presented to MEPC 78 in June 2022, with a view to considering a package of amendments to the convention at MEPC 79 in December 2022.
There seems to be a disconnect between the industry’s experience of the EBP phase and that of the regulators. Unless the data submitted to World Maritime University shows otherwise, an extension of EBP will be decided at the last MEPC in 2022.
2021 saw at least one ballast water treatment manufacturer leave the industry. Flow Water Technologies of Cyprus had launched its system in 2013 but in September 2021 the company withdrew from the market and closed its doors.
On the mergers and acquisition side, ERMA FIRST has been one of the most active. In June 2021, it acquired Germany-based marine water specialist RWO GmbH, followed by US-based oneTank and its 600 mm x 600 mm ballast water management system.
Previously, ballast water management system provider De Nora had acquired the UV Technologies Division, including Hyde Marine, from Calgon Carbon Corporation. This also brought about a change of personnel.
In an industry as small and technologically driven as ballast water treatment technology, the pooling of expertise around a few companies, technologies and people is likely to be the defining feature of 2022.
Waterborne in the USA
The US follows a different path to IMO on ballast water treatment and has a completely different law-making procedure.
Following VIDA, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently formulating regulations from which the USCG has two years to produce its companion regulations to enforce the EPA regulations.
This means the current regulations, such as the vessel general permit still stand but many vessels were granted an alternative management systems permit which is now running out. 2022 will see a new alternative for vessels beyond USCG compliance dates to be compliant – by discharging ballast water into approved reception facilities.
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