The global trade association for merchant shipowners, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), has modified its stance towards the ratification by governments of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Ballast Water Management Convention, which has still not yet entered into force having been adopted more than 10 years ago.
The ICS Board of Directors has agreed that the position of ICS is now as follows:
“Notwithstanding the need to resolve outstanding issues and questions concerning the implementation of the IMO Ballast Water Management Convention, ICS acknowledges the agreement in principle by the IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) meeting in October to address the various concerns raised by the shipping industry. ICS will therefore no longer actively discourage those governments that have not yet done so from ratifying the Convention, in order that it might enter into force sooner rather than later so that amendments to the Convention, which the industry has requested, can then be adopted and implemented by governments as soon as possible.”
In principle, ICS has always supported the eventual entry into force of the IMO Convention in order to protect local ecosystems from the impact of invasive species carried inadvertently in ships’ ballast water. However, for the past two years, ICS and its member national associations have strongly discouraged additional governments from ratifying the Convention until serious questions about how the Convention would be implemented had been properly addressed. These issues included the lack of robustness of the current IMO type-approval process for the expensive new treatment equipment, the criteria to be used for sampling ballast water during Port State Control inspections, and the need for ‘grandfathering’ of type-approved equipment already or about to be fitted.
The significant change of ICS’s position signals recognition of the real progress made by IMO Member States towards agreeing solutions to those major issues that have previously impeded ratification of the Convention, and their agreement to start work immediately on a revision of the G8 type-approval guidelines to make the process for approving ballast water treatment equipment more robust.
In the meantime, IMO has also agreed, in principle, that any shipowner who has invested in first generation treatment equipment, type-approved under the current G8 guidelines, should not be penalised, provided that the equipment is operated and maintained correctly. ICS also believes that the adoption by IMO of new Port State Control guidelines reflects a fair and pragmatic approach to inspection of ships, provided they are adhered to by governments.
ICS emphasises that its change of position with respect to ratification does not mean that it thinks that all of the many problems associated with the Convention have been fully resolved. Many of the details of the MEPC Resolution agreed in October still need to be finalised by IMO as a matter of urgency if the Convention is to be implemented smoothly and fairly. ICS and its members will continue to press IMO Member States strongly on these issues in the year ahead.