US approval – why the long delays?
In complete contrast to the IMO convention where there were more than 60 systems type approved before it was ratified, the US ballast regime requiring a treatment system installed came into effect almost three full years before a single system had been type-approved. In accordance with the timetable shown below several vessels built before 1 December 2013 should also be fitted with type approved systems by now. The temporary fix by the US Coast Guard was to establish the Alternate Management systems rule that allows ships to use systems type-approved by other administrations providing they prove acceptable to the USCG. Not all IMO type-approved systems have been granted AMS status and many of those that have been accepted have limitations as to their use within the three categories of water salinity. Use of an AMS approved system has a time limit of five years after which the ship has to fit an approved system if one is available or apply for a further extension. As at the beginning of December 2016, 56 systems had been granted AMS status including the Optimarin, Alfa Laval and Oceansaver systems which have now become the first systems to achieve USCG Type-approval. There is a minor caveat with regards to the approval in the Optimarine system in that it does not meet the requirements of 46 CFR 111.105 and may not be installed in hazardous locations on US flag vessels. The OBS Ex model which is ATEX Zone 1 approved, may be installed in hazardous locations only on a foreign flag vessel subject to approval of the foreign administration. Now that a type approved BWMS is available, any owner/operator requesting an extension to the compliance dates shown in the table above must provide the USCG with an explicit statement supported by documentary evidence (eg, a delay in commercial availability) that installation of the type approved system is not possible for purposes of compliance with the regulatory implementation schedule. Following the Optimarin type-approval the USCG has issued an explanation note that will allay some of the concerns of owners. The note reiterates the situation saying ‘Commercial seagoing ships operating in US waters (within 12 nautical miles) and not otherwise exempted are required to manage ballast water in one of five ways:
- Use a US type-approved BWMS to meet the discharge standard;
- Temporarily use a foreign type-approved BWMS that has been accepted by the USCG as an AMS;
- Use and discharge ballast water obtained exclusively from a US public water system;
- Discharge ballast water to a reception facility;
- Do not discharge ballast water inside 12 nautical miles.
- Written correspondence between the owner/operator and the applicable BWMS manufacturer(s) that confirm BWMS are not available for installation on that particular vessel or class of vessels until after the compliance date.
- Vessel design limitations with type approved BWMS currently available.
- Safety concerns related to installing type approved systems currently available.
- Any other situation that may preclude a vessel from being fitted with a type approved system.
- Sufficient number of suitable BWMS have received USCG type approval
- Sufficient, suitable models are available
- Drydock availability is not limited
- Issues from installation and commissioning are resolved.