Major challenges following BWM ratification
It has been a long time coming, but recent accession by Finland has triggered the entry into force of the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments (BWM) convention.
The convention will enter into force on 8 September 2017, by which date vessels will be required to have a ballast water management system in place, or have one retrofitted at the time of the vessel’s first drydocking thereafter. However, it should be noted that discussion continues about some of the practical details of implementation.
Under the convention, ships in international trade will be required to manage their ballast water and sediments to certain standards, according to a ship-specific ballast water management plan. The ballast water performance standard will be phased in over a period of time. Most ships will need to install an onboard system to treat ballast water and eliminate unwanted organisms.
Shipowners and operators, meanwhile, still face uncertainty about which systems to install, with more than sixty typeapproved versions on the market. And while many have already installed systems on their vessels, none of these has received US Coast Guard approval. It has been argued that the entry into force of the BWM convention could have a positive effect on overtonnaging, with many older vessels deemed not to warrant the cost of upgrading.
Meanwhile, the potential cost and financing challenge represented by BWM compliance is enormous, although the accounting should be more straightforward. Initial installation, including retrofit, will be treated as capital expenditure, while ongoing operation will be an operating cost. In addition, the i mpact on vessel i mpairment assessments must not be overlooked. It is essential that those affected by the new legislation understand exactly what is required of them by what date.