Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Shipping Concerns Address Standardisation of Ballast Water Treatment Systems

New Body to be Established Following Memorandum of Understanding
Shipping News Feature

SOUTH KOREA – WORLDWIDE – Ahead of this year’s Global Ballast Water Management R&D Forum organised under the offices of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), representatives from 16 ballast water treatment (BWT) system testing organisations have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), to establish the GloBal TestNet, a new group that aims to ‘greater levels of standardisation, transparency and openness in the process of technology approvals’. The signing marks an important milestone in the global effort to address the problem of invasive species transferred through ships’ ballast water, and addresses concerns within the shipping industry about a perceived lack of standardisation and harmonisation among BWT technology test organisations.

The move is expected to benefit test facility clients as well as the end-users of ballast water treatment technologies: the ship owners who need cost-effective and environmentally-friendly systems to meet the requirements of the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments (BWM Convention), 2004.

The signing of the GloBal TestNet MoU, during the R&D Forum in Busan, Republic of Korea, from 23 to 25 October, follows four years of discussion among testing organisations, which have met several times under the auspices of the Global Industry Alliance (GIA), established within the framework of the GloBallast Partnerships Programme. Chairman of the GIA and Vice President of APL, Shaj Thayil, said:

“I am very encouraged to see that the testing organisations have signed such an MoU, and that the GIA and the GEF-UNDP-IMO [Global Environment Facility, United Nations Development Programme, International Maritime Organization] GloBallast Partnerships Programme catalysed such a collaborative process. This initiative could play a major role in addressing some of the concerns related to harmonisation of technology testing and approval process and thereby accelerate the availability of approved treatment systems to meet the needs of the industry.”

The BWM Convention was adopted to prevent the spread of invasive aquatic organisms from one region to another (the true horrors of which we have elaborated on several times) by establishing standards and procedures for the management and control of ships' ballast water and sediments. Once it enters into force, the treaty will require all ships to implement a Ballast Water and Sediments Management Plan. All ships will have to carry a Ballast Water Record Book and will be required to carry out ballast water management procedures to a given standard.

Guidelines on approval of ballast water management systems have been adopted by IMO. Reliability and consistency of the test methodologies used is seen as extremely important, in order to meet ship owners’ expectations that technologies approved and installed on ships have global acceptance, irrespective of the testing organizations used to test and approve them.

The GloBal TestNet hopes that it will provide a neutral platform for information sharing and help ensure that all testing is comparable and in conformity, while delivering to the end users of the treatment technologies a greater level of transparency and provide tools for meaningful assessment and comparison of the different systems available on the market.

This is also expected to contribute to the timely implementation and ratification of the Ballast Water Management Convention, which has, to date, been ratified by 38 Parties, representing 30.38% of world merchant shipping tonnage. As previous protocol demands it will enter into force 12 months after due ratification by at least 30 States, representing 35% of world merchant shipping tonnage.

Photo: ‘Rock Vomit’ (demnum vexillum), one of three invasive tunicates in Alaska, on a "Japanese lantern" oyster cage. Courtesy of NOAA Fisheries