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Shipowners Face Impending Ballast Water Management Regulations

shipping army corp of engineersShipowners face a string of impending ballast water regulations that will require a number of expensive upgrades and training, according to a legal briefing prepared by insurer UK P&I Club.

Once ratified, the Ballast Water Management Convention 2004 will require shipowners to understand compliance standards, develop a ballast water management plan, select and install a treatment system and train personnel to operate it. Ships also will be subject to survey, certification and inspection, according to the updated UK P&I Club legal briefing.

The convention must be ratified by 30 states representing 35 percent of the world’s merchant shipping tonnage before the regulations can go into effect. To date, signatures amounting to 29 percent of the world’s merchant shipping tonnage have been obtained. The remaining signatures are expected shortly, UK P&I Club says.

There is strong support for the convention because of evidence that  invasive species damage the environment and have a negative impact on human livelihoods through the depletion of native fish stocks, UK P&I Club says.

The IMO Environment Protection Committee has developed and adopted a series of guidelines to ensure the convention’s regulations are applied uniformly.

The guidelines cover ballast water sampling, risk assessment, ballast water exchange design and construction standards.

UK P&I Club is urging shipowners to begin familiarizing themselves with the requirements of the convention. The cost of compliance will be high and likely require some financing, the insurer says. A ballast water treatment system can cost between $500,000 to $4 million, a figure that doesn’t include the expense of drydocking, installation and developing a water management plan.

The EPA issued a final vessel general permit in March 2013 regulating discharges from commercial vessels, including ballast water. The permit tightens the discharge standard on invasive species, protects the nation’s waters from ship-borne pollutants and eliminates duplicative reporting requirements, the EPA says.

The 27 specific discharge categories apply to commercial vessels greater than 79 feet, and the new permit will replace the 2008 vessel general permit due to expire on Dec. 19, 2013.

Photo: US Army Corps of Engineers

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