IMO Secretary-General welcomes revised shipping industry stance on ballast water convention

Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), Koji Sekimizu yesterday met with the chairman of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), Mr. Masamichi Morooka, to discuss the ICS’ position on the ratification of the 2004 BWM Convention.

For the past two years, ICS and its member national associations have strongly discouraged additional governments from ratifying the Convention until questions about how the Convention would be implemented had been properly addressed.  The ICS notes 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.”

As of 17 December, the ICS stated that it will “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.”

During their meeting, Mr. Sekimizu expressed his wish that Governments, and in particular those with a large merchant shipping tonnage under their flag, should take action to ratify the BWM Convention as soon as possible. As of today, countries such as Greece, Ivory Coast, India, Ghana, Kuwait, Qatar, Vanuatu, United States, and Vietnam – to name a few, have yet to ratify the convention as of 9 December 2014.

Currently, only a further 2.46 per cent of world tonnage is required to trigger its entry into force, which in turn would open up the possibility to amend the Convention. Mr. Morooka and Mr Sekimizu agreed to encourage IMO Member Governments to start thinking how the requirements of the Convention could be improved, taking into account the experience gained and in order to formally reflect in the Convention those measures agreed by IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee in October 2014 (MEPC 67)* and the revised implementation schedule adopted by IMO Assembly resolution A.1088(28).

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Sekimizu said, “My personal message to the shipping industry is to take action as soon as possible to start preparations for installing ballast water management systems on board existing ships, in advance of the revised implementation schedule agreed by the IMO Assembly (resolution A.1088 (28)). This would avoid the risk of creating a bottleneck at shipyards during the initial implementation period, when the demand for retrofitting of such systems is expected to be high.”

He added, “The early entry into force of the BWM Convention and its global implementation under the framework of maritime governance at IMO will ensure that standards adopted and measures agreed at IMO will be implemented globally, thus creating a level playing field for the shipping industry.”

“IMO Member States have a responsibility to ratify IMO Conventions. At this moment, with 43 States having already ratified the BWM Convention, it must be stated that the responsibility of States holding a large amount of tonnage in their registry is of paramount importance, because, without their ratifications, the Convention will not come into force in the foreseeable future. In spite of my request at the beginning of this year, under the theme of ‘IMO conventions: effective implementation’, no State holding tonnage of more than 2.5 percent in its registry has ratified the BWM Convention this year.” said Mr Sekimizu.

He concluded, “I recognise that the position of ICS has had a considerable influence over the decisions of IMO Member States during the last two years and, with the change of position of ICS triggered by the resolution adopted at the latest MEPC, I now sincerely hope that those States holding tonnage of more than 2.5 per cent will also change their position and take swift actions to ratify the BWM Convention as soon as possible, so that we can make real progress in dealing with the problems of invasive species through ballast water on which IMO has spent enormous amounts of time, energy and serious effort in order to protect the marine environment over the last two decades.”

Adopted in 2004, the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments (BWM Convention) addresses the problem of aquatic organisms and pathogens being released into non-native environments after being transported around the world in ships’ ballast water. Such organisms may survive and out-compete native species, becoming invasive and causing a great deal of damage to the local ecosystem.

The BWM Convention requires the treatment and management of ballast water in order to kill off such microorganisms or species.

The treaty will enter into force 12 months after ratification by 30 States, collectively representing 35 per cent of world merchant shipping tonnage. The number of ratifying states (43) is already sufficient but, at 32.54 per cent, their collective share of world merchant shipping tonnage is not quite sufficient to trigger entry into force.


Copyright Ships & Ports Ltd. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit given to as the source.