A blog I posted in July 2012 discussed substitute approaches to handling the challenges of ballast water management (BWM). Emerging technology will allow for non ballast water ships, ballast through ships and several other solutions to the conundrum. However, this is not the focus here. Substitute approaches are mainly linked to ‘alternatives’ – and so treatment systems located other than onboard. Two of these involve different performers in the ‘shipping supply chain’.
The ‘simplest’ alternative approach involves the provision of onshore or barge facilities for receiving, cleaning, storing (if the ship needs some of it back later) and managing ballast water. It involves a number of challenges such as:
- Information requirements in relation to the ballast water quantities, composition and species, including accurate data;
- Uncertainty – how much would it cost to dispose of ballast water each time and what are the projected cost increases?;
- Guaranteeing the availability of onshore or barge-based capacity to meet turnaround time in port, and sufficient space and technology to treat the ballast water when needed;
- Assurance of legal compliance for the onshore/barge facility (the accurate information in point one above) and for shipowners linked to point three above. Compliance requirements will differ for onshore facility and shipowner and both requirements have to be met
- How to prove that the ship can carry out normal operations without discharging ballast water into the sea.
The ‘complex’ alternative approach involves sourcing goods that could be shipped on ballast leg journeys. The key benefit of this option includes improvement in overall efficiency. This involves challenges such as:
- The ‘shipping supply chain’ needs to co-operate and identify options in terms of goods for the ballast leg journey;
- Return ballast legs would always have to include transportation of goods;
- Availability of goods suitable for the specific ship type ballast leg;
- How to prove that the ship can carry out normal operations without discharging ballast water into the sea
What would it take to make either of the above options viable?
- A global rather than regional approach to ballast water – it is critical to maintain the concept of the ‘global ship’;
- Entrepreneur(s) to provide risk capital for onshore/barge-based options;
- Infrastructure providers/ports/terminals being prepared to take the risk and provide the space
- Onshore regulators granting permission to discharge ballast water in line with onshore requirements, following treatment;
- Interest and actual support from the ‘shipping supply chain’;
- Agreed contract terms to assure compliance – onshore and for a ship;
- Agreed contract terms to assure availability of treatment capacity onshore when capacity is needed;
- Other factors involved in the ‘complex’ approach:
- acute water shortages in areas where ore, oil etc. are extracted;
- excess water in areas which import oil, ore etc.;
- water pricing
Although these options are valid, the obstacles that need to be overcome are substantial. One critical challenge is that the USA imposes ballast water requirements for ships visiting US ports from 1 December
2013 (with a facing in for existing ships until 2016) while the rest of the world awaits ratification of the BWM Convention. That is still uncertain. If you couple this with the need for ships to be able to trade globally, the best option for the majority of shipowners is onboard treatments.
Anne- Marie Warris
Environmental Advisor to Marine Divison, Lloyd’s Register
Above article has been initially published at Horizons (January 2013) and is reproduced here with author’s kind permission