Ballast Flow Still Running at Low Pressure

Malcolm Latarche

Malcolm Latarche · 22 May 2018


With over half of a year passed since the ballast water convention was due to come into full effect, the number of ships sailing with a fully operational ballast system is still quite small.


Meanwhile the number of systems with US type-approval is growing slowly but could easily treble before much longer.

Life has never been easy for makers of ballast water treatment systems and with almost a decade gone since the first of the initial deadlines was intended to come into effect, the retrofit of systems to existing vessels has still to begin in earnest. At MEPC 71 last year, the IMO in response to action taken by shipowners to delay implement the fitting of systems by decoupling their IOPP certificates from the renewal schedule, opted to allow extra time for most existing ships.

The decision meant ships constructed after 8 September 2017 would need to comply on delivery, while existing ships in general must comply by the first IOPP renewal after 8th September 2019. Those ships which had sought to delay installation by earlier decoupling the IOPP certificate renewal were thus deprived of some of the extension that others have been allowed.

That closing of the loophole on further scheduling should alert owners to their risk from a supply and yard capacity crunch, according to naval architecture and engineering consultancy Foreship. At MEPC 72 in April when events around decarbonising shipping grabbed the headlines, the IMO also rubber stamped the entry into force date for the new code of type-approval agreed at MEPC 71 meaning systems installed on or after 28 October 2020 are subject to the new code.

“When agreement was reached last year for the Convention to apply to new ships from 8 September 2017, many in the industry saw that as clarity for a regulation that had effectively been on ice for 13 years,” said Olli Somerkallio, Foreship Head of Machinery Department. “However, there was still work to be done, as some of the approvals issues that had blocked uniform entry into force were revived.”

For existing ships whose last IOPP renewal survey took place between 8 Sept 2014 and 7 Sept 2017, the Convention now demands treatment system installation at the next renewal survey on or after 8 Sept 2017.

“Adopting the Code brings the framework for compliance,” explained Somerkallio pictured above. “Looked at from the budgetary point of view, it means that hesitation is no longer the smart tactic. Yard space is limited and, while the list of system suppliers may be long, the number of sub-suppliers is not. Many brands draw on the same sources, and these are components that are also used for shore-based water treatment technology.

“I would say that this is the very last moment to start building a fleet-wide plan for system installations and start reasonable negotiations and an orderly procurement process with the system suppliers. Hesitancy now may only result in the short supply of components later, including filters, UV systems or the cells for electro-chlorination systems,” said Somerkallio

MEPC 72 also saw amendments to details of the IMO’s guidance on scaling of ballast water systems and approval of Guidance for Administrations on the type approval process. New additions to the list of approvals were lower than in the past with just two reports of type approvals and no basic or final G9 approvals at all during the meeting. Even so the list of approved systems continues to expand although withdrawals from the market are becoming more common.

The meeting also considered a proposal submitted by China that ballast pumps should be connected to a vessel’s GPS so as to confirm exactly when and for how long ballast operations took place. It was decided to leave this for the time being with China requested to submit a new proposal to the next MEPC meeting in October.

The reasoning being that further information is needed on the benefits that might be obtained and the problems that may be involved in adding extra equipment requirements at this time.

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