At MEPC 77, the Ballast Water Review Group (BWRG) considered a number of submissions related to the application of the BWM Convention to ships operating at ports with challenging water quality. BEMA presented a proposal for use of the existing IMO guidance contained within BWM.2/Circ.62 with a goal of supporting delivery of the needed guidance to all stakeholders.
The BWRG discussions at MEPC 77 revealed a substantive list of complex issues surrounding the actions ships should take when they encounter ports with challenging water quality (PCWQ) that have the potential to result in insufficient treatment by the installed ballast water management system (BWMS). Many of these complex issues have the potential to require a significant amount of time to reach agreements that broadly satisfy all stakeholders.
Regardless of the reason a ship may be unable to manage ballast water in accordance with its approved Ballast Water Management Plan (BWMP) (e.g. ship emergency situation, ship equipment failure, BWMS equipment failure, or encountering a PCWQ), the end result is that the ship may potentially have non-compliant ballast water discharge and will need to implement contingency measures.
Further, regardless of when the inability to manage ballast water in accordance with the requirements has been determined (i.e. during uptake or during discharge), the ship may potentially have non-compliant ballast water discharge and will need to implement contingency measures.
In light of the above, there is limited value in spending significant resources and time to establish an agreed definition of “ports with challenging water quality”, to wait for gathering of sufficient data to determine the global locations where challenging water quality may be encountered (as this can change tidally and seasonally), or to resolve the other complex issues that were raised during the BWRG discussions.
While these complex topics are important and relevant, the individual scenarios that ships will encounter will be highly diverse and the practical matter is that ships will need to take additional actions to address potentially non-compliant ballast water discharge.
BEMA notes that functionality of a BWMS control and monitoring system is evaluated during type approval testing and should be considered reliable.
In the upcoming MEPC 78, June 6-10 2022, the Committee is expected to discuss all proposals related to application of the BWM Convention to ships operating at ports with challenging water quality.
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