We’ve got five years

Malcolm Latarche
Malcolm Latarche

05 January 2017


Last year saw the death of pop star David Bowie and the ratification of the IMO’s ballast water convention. Both momentous events in their own way but not obviously linked. This year it seems that there will be a definite connection between the opening song of Bowie’s iconic album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the fitting of ballast water systems. Ships will be obliged to fit systems after 8 September 2017 at the next renewal of their IOPP certificate. That certificate is issued for a period of five years which just happens to be the title of track 1 on the Bowie album. In the song, five years was the time left for the world to end but for hard-pressed shipowners, five years is a long time and putting off the time when they must install a system by five years is a very attractive proposition. Despite having signed up to the ballast water convention, it seems that some flag states are now willing to circumvent its requirements by allowing shipowners to de-couple the anniversary of the IOPP renewal from the normal five year cycle. Norway and St Vincent were among the first to do so and they have now been joined by the Marshall Islands. Almost certainly more states will follow suit and there is sure to be a rush by shipowners to take advantage of the chance to put off the inevitable by a further five years. To do so they will have to arrange for the renewal survey to be undertaken before the 8 September so class societies and other recognised organisations look to be in for a busy period over the next nine months. This development is not one that will gladden the hearts of system makers who were cheering the news of Finland’s triggering ratification during SMM last year but for those makers that have completed the more rigorous US Type Approval and those that are near to doing so, the fact that the retrofit may now be delayed until 2022 may well see off any competitors who have not yet begun the expensive process. When the IMO next meets at MEPC71 in July, the fact that they have been presented with a fait accompli in the delaying process may either tip them in the direction of accepting Liberia’s new timetable or it could sway them to stick with the current schedule knowing that owners have been given a way round it already.