Bunker tanker operators may obtain exemptions from ballast water management requirements as IMO gives green light for SRA concept

Bunker tanker operators may obtain exemptions from ballast water management requirements as IMO gives green light for SRA concept

It will be possible for states that are party to the Ballast Water Management (BWM) Convention to grant exemptions for vessels operating within specific geographical areas from the requirement to manage ballast water under the same risk area (SRA) concept.

As previously observed by IBIA, such exemptions may benefit bunker tankers that operate in more than one country, but within a limited geographical range, if those coastal States agree to delineate a “same risk area”. This would require the coastal States to demonstrate, based on a systematic and scientifically sound process, that there is no risk of vessels operating within the SRA spreading invasive species.

The International Maritime Organization’s BWM Convention will enter into force on 8 September 2017. Under the terms of the Convention, ships will be required to comply with the ballast water performance standard (D-2), which in practice means they will need to install a ballast water management system (BWMS).

Details of the BWM Convention, which has been a headache for the industry and regulators for many years, were discussed and progressed at the 70th meeting of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 70).

MEPC has previously agreed that the requirement to meet the ballast water performance standard will be phased in over a period of time to make the transition more manageable, meaning existing ships will not need to comply with the D-2 standard until their first renewal survey following the date of entry into force of the Convention. If a vessel has had its renewal survey just before the BWM Convention enters into force it could be up to five years before it is required to have its next renewal survey and meet the D-2 standard.

MEPC 70 discussed a proposal for alternative draft amendments which would allow for compliance by the second renewal survey in certain circumstances. It was agreed that the alternative proposal would be debated at MEPC 71 next year.

MEPC 70 furthermore adopted revised Guidelines for approval of ballast water management systems (G8), and recommended application of the revised Guidelines (G8) as soon as possible, and agreed that BWMS installed on ships on or after 28 October 2020 should be approved taking into account the revised guidelines.

What this means in practice is that most existing ships, providing they do not have a renewal survey between 8 September 2017 and 2020, will have a BWMS approved using the revised guidelines, which should be more robust and give more confidence that the BWMS will meet the D-2 discharge standards.

As for defining SRAs, MEPC 70 concluded that the concept is in line with the Guidelines for risk assessment under regulation A-4 of the BWM Convention (G7), that no further guidance on the matter is necessary and that Administrations may grant exemptions in accordance with regulation A-4 based on the SRA conbunkerbargecept, subject to consultation and agreement between States that may be affected by such exemptions.

It was agreed, however, to invite submissions to MEPC 71 proposing minor amendments to Guidelines (G7), in order to better clarify the relationship between Guidelines (G7) and the SRA concept.

As far as IBIA knows, no SRAs have as yet been formally agreed, but Denmark and Sweden are working on it, and Singapore has been undertaking studies on potential SRAs with neighbouring countries.

The SRA concept would allow coastal States to grant exemptions to a group of ships operating within the SRA rather than on a ship-by-ship basis, thereby easing the administrative burden for both shipping companies and Administrations. 

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