Interim delays and developments

Updated 11 Oct 2019

Ballast delay

When the IMO Convention was adopted in 2004, treatment systems were in their infancy although much time and money was being spent in their development. Consequently, the first date requiring some ships to be equipped with a ballast water treatment system was set for 2009 in anticipation of the requisite ratifications being achieved before that date.

Under a rollout programme that depended upon ballast capacity and build date, all new vessels built today would need to have a system onboard from the date of delivery. Ships built prior to 2009 (or prior to 2012 if they had a ballast capacity over 5,000m3) would be permitted to delay retrofitting a system until 2017.

However, since the convention now only comes into full effect in September 2017, no ship can be considered non-compliant if the owner has chosen not to install a ballast treatment system so far.

As the first deadline was reached in 2009 and it was clear that the required signatures had not been gathered, the IMO agreed to a one year extension for newbuildings and until late in 2012 had stuck rigidly to that position. At the 64th meeting of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) held in October 2012 and generally referred to as MEPC64,

the IMO finally accepted industry arguments that the timetable had become unworkable. As a result, it was agreed that a Correspondence Group headed by Japan would be set up to examine what options there are for implementation of the Convention for existing ships.

The biggest problem facing the IMO was that under the rules governing conventions, texts cannot be changed between adoption and coming into force dates. As a consequence, the timetable could not be further amended and in attempt to address this and to encourage more states to add their signatures it was decided at MEPC 65 in May 2013 that when the convention finally comes into force, a relaxed installation regime would be recommended.

Although on the face of it this would seem to be a workable proposal it does not alter the fact that it is only a recommendation and individual states would not be obliged to implement the new timetable. That could leave vessels liable to detention if a port state was determined to adhere rigidly to the initial timetable.

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