New ballast water regulations are closing in on the shipping industry

-Ellinor Forsström

After 13 years of preparations and negotiations the date when the Ballast Water Management convention (BWM) is taken into force, but what is it that makes it possible now? By the 8 of September this year the new regulations, which aims to prevent the spread of aquatic organisms, is taken into action by the international chamber of shipping (ICS). The purpose is to ensure that ships trading in international water must have a ship-specific Ballast Water Management System (BWMS) installed that is approved both according to the flag state and the international maritime organization (IMO). Should a vessel carry the flag of a country, which have not accepted the BWM, they are still required to meet its standards when entering a port in a country that has ratified the system. Faced with the fact that only a few months remains before the BWM is being initiated the shipping industry is overall confident of meeting the standard in time. Due to the rigorous work that has been made during the last decade the industry is now well-prepared for the changes ahead. Both equipment manufacturers and engineering companies have put extra effort to ensure that the equipment necessary to comply with the new rules are made commercially available, and today there are over 60 types of approved systems out on the market.


However, there are still some concerns when it comes to how this regulation will affect the shipping industry. Experts has estimated that the ratifications of this system will cost the global maritime industry upward 75 billion USD. The prices per vessel will depend on several factors like the size, ballast water capacity and type of treatment, but it is expected to be in the range of half a million to five million USD. In addition to this, other cost are expected to follow with the new technology linked to the maintenance and operation. This has caused great concern in an already depressed market which has made several ship owners hesitant to the suggestion and created a barrier for some countries to be a part of the convention. One country that has not approved this is the U.S, which has come up with their own plan called U.S. Ballast Water Regulations. This will mean that a vessel entering an American port and trade on international water need to comply with both systems which have caused many ship owners to wonder if they will be able to continue the routes they have taken in the past.

Although all of these concerns are valid, there are also some positive consequences that are expected to follow, set aside the environmental benefits, with the new regulation. Due to the additional cost, the existing over supply of vessels is expected to decrease. These predictions are based on the fact that many vessels that are more than 15 years would be taken out of service. This will also force the industry to get more efficient when it comes to planning their routes, due to the fact that fewer ships are available.

The news of that the implementation of stricter regulations when it comes to ballast water is of course very positive. The number of sustainability challenges that follows with badly handled water treatment is many and it threatens both aquatic ecosystems and human health. By that, it is most satisfying to read that the industry thinks they are up for the challenge. However this article pinpoints one big concern when it comes to global shipping policies. It is very dependent on collaboration and unity to work in a smooth and rewarding way.




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