Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) 71 was a very busy week and ship owners can now benefit from having a firm view of the regulatory timeline for complying with the latest global require-ments for managing the ballast water from their vessels. Unfortunately, the timeline remains very crowded and for owners with ships trading to and from the U.S., compliance is more complicated. While some deadlines were eased to reflect the fact that many dates from the original BWM Convention had lapsed while consensus was being reached, the Convention still enters into force on September 8 this year.
Shipowners and operators have been lobbying to buy additional time for an industry that is still recovering from the financial crisis. Clearly, compliance with the BWM Convention will require significant investments in equipment and training. The time extension, however, will have little effect for vessels sailing in US waters. A federal regulation already imposes domestic standards that are more stringent than those of the BWM Convention. Vessels with a ballast water capacity below 1,500 cubic meters must use a treatment system approved by the United States Coast Guard (USCG) to release ballast waters within 12 nautical miles of the US coastlines.
So far, vessel owners could easily obtain exemptions due to the lack of approved systems. However, three different systems are now available. Thus, the USCG has announced that extensions will not be granted unless there is strong justification. The USCG has also reminded shipowners and operators that the delayed implementation of the BWM Convention will not exempt compliance with the federal regulation that is already applicable in US waters.