MEPC - Harmful aquatic organisms in ballast water.

The Working Group on ballast water management was focused on finalising the text of all articles of the Convention so that the Committee could go straight through it by the end of the week and then recommend that a Diplomatic Conference be held early in 2004.

INTERTANKO took part in a constructive debate in the working group which led to a more practical text being agreed. However, there still remain two particularly contentious issues: the standard of treated ballast water and the phase-in for existing ships.

Standards on the table vary between one viable organism per tonne to 100. The size of permitted organisms is also in dispute, with the smallest organisms requiring multiple filters to remove them (resulting in very slow ballast discharge) or chemical treatment (resulting in further pollution and safety problems for the tanker operators).

On phase-in, the WG accepted the need to phase in ballast water treatment depending on the size of the ship. Bigger ships have more ballast water and are therefore more dependent on improved technology to achieve viable ballast discharge rates. The text of the convention now reflects this reality in ballast treatment advances and is based on a phase-in of both the ballast exchange and treatment standard based on the size of the ballast capacity.

INTERTANKO is hopeful that the text will be approved by the Committee on its last day of deliberations and that the Diplomatic Conference will be held in early 2004.

INTERTANKO will, however, continue to work on some of the smaller aspects which may otherwise prevent the convention being a workable and enforceable instrument.

Contact: Tim Wilkins