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Saturday, October 20, 2018


Following a number of questionable claims from the vendors of ballast water treatment equipment, the shipping industry has been warned of the lack of effectiveness of alternatives to ballast water exchange at sea. The IMO based Global Ballast Water Management Programme recently reported that, until appropriate standards for ballast water treatment have been developed the only viable treatment option is ballast water exchange at sea. Ship owners have been advised to be wary of claims for treatment systems which may not have been tested on board larger bulk carriers that have greater ballast water demands.

Although not as effective as some environmentalists might wish, ballast water exchange at sea can reduce the risk of transferring harmful organisms by up to 60%. Furthermore, with a number of regional and national laws requiring ballast water exchange prior to ballast discharge it is logical to focus on the practicalities and effectiveness of this treatment option. Certainly it is premature to consider the phasing out of this treatment option, as has been suggested by some groups in both the IMO and the US.

IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) has yet to develop standards for either ballast water exchange or other treatment options. In addition, it is likely that ballast water exchange will still remain an option when the IMO finalises the Convention on Harmful Aquatic Organisms in 2003. In the meantime, INTERTANKO is continuing to ensure that ballast water exchange is not disregarded as an effective treatment option. Comments to this effect have already been submitted by INTERTANKO to both the US Coast Guard and the IMO in response to questions on standards for ballast treatment options. With current alternative technologies only capable of a treatment rate of approximately 200 cubic metres per hour most of the tanker sector will have to wait longer than expected until it can stop using ballast water exchange.

Contact: Tim Wilkins