IMO environmental meeting approves new measures on ballast water management for ships

Ballast water management is to become a major consideration in the design of new vessels following the approval by IMO of a series of measures aimed at reducing the harmful effects of marine organisms transported in ballast water and the risks involved in some ballast water management techniques.

The 47th session of the International Maritime Organization’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC), which met from 4 to 8 March at IMO Headquarters in London, approved a Circular containing a raft of design suggestions for ballast water and sediment management options in new ships.

As a fundamental principle, the Circular states that ballast water management and the processes chosen to achieve it should be considered as a basic component of a ship’s design and that ballast tank design should facilitate all aspects of ballast water management.

Installation of recording equipment should be considered for all ballast water operations and treatment actions and it should be possible for these records to be readily available to appropriate authorities that may request copies.

The Circular goes on to state that ballast water system designs should take special account of the increased need for content sampling, with an aim to enhancing the quality and ease of sampling of ballast water and sediments, without the need to enter potentially dangerous spaces or to partially fill ballast tanks. 

Where ballast water exchange at sea is the chosen method, the overall design, strength and stability of the ship should be sufficient to permit its execution on all ballast voyages and in all except severe weather conditions.  For the guidance of the master, the maximum sea state and swell conditions identified by the builder, if any, in which ballast water exchange can safely be carried out should be recorded in a Ballast Water Management Plan, which should be created for every ship. This plan should give guidance on safe and effective operation of the various ballast water management and treatment options that are considered appropriate for the ship.

The design of the ship should include consideration of the consequences of ballast water exchange at sea including: stability, hull girder strength, shear forces, resonance, sloshing, stemming, propeller immersion, limitations brought about by insufficient strength in various parts of the ship when the tanks are sequentially emptied and appropriate strengthening incorporated to allow this operation to be conducted safely.

A draft international convention for the control and management of ships’ ballast water and sediments as well as associated guidelines for its implementation is being developed for consideration and adoption by a diplomatic conference scheduled for 2003. However, until this convention is adopted and enters into force, IMO Member Governments should apply the Guidelines for the control and management of ships’ ballast water to minimize the transfer of harmful aquatic organisms and pathogens, adopted by resolution A.868(20) in 1997 and also the  guidance contained in the Circular mentioned above. Governments are invited to bring the guidance to the attention of attention of ship-builders, ship-owners, shipmasters and other parties concerned.

A Working Group at MEPC 47 further developed a draft text of the proposed convention. In particular, the Group developed a section on Special Requirements in Certain Areas and developed text for the criteria for establishing a ballast water discharge control area, and requirements for ships discharging ballast water within such areas.   However, the text is very much provisional until decisions have been taken regarding the choice of one or more ballast water treatment standards. If these special requirements – so-called “Tier 2” requirements – are agreed, these would come on top of the general requirements – “Tier 1” – applicable to all ships carrying ballast water.

A key part of the convention will be to agree on standards, which should guide the development of ballast water treatment techniques. These techniques should be applied on board a vessel and should be: (1) safe for the ship and crew; (2) environmentally acceptable; (3) practical; (4) cost effective; and (5) biologically effective.

The Committee concurred with the Working Group that the ballast water exchange standard would be one of the tools within the legal instrument, alongside one or more treatment standards.  There will be provision for the review of both ballast water exchange and treatment standards based upon submissions to the Organization in view of developing technology.

The Working Group agreed that only a 100% removal or inactivation standard can be guaranteed to be effective in eliminating the transfer of unwanted organisms and pathogens, but that standards based on a lesser percentage have an unquantifiable benefit.  A large proportion of the Group was of the opinion that a 95% reduction would achieve a worthwhile reduction of risk and would be a practicable and achievable solution in the medium term.  Others were concerned that this was not a scientifically supportable conclusion.

The Committee agreed to re-establish the Correspondence Group on ballast water management  to carry out a detailed comparative assessment of each of the proposed standards, taking into account the various technologies that might be used to achieve these standards and all other relevant factors and considerations, with particular attention to practicality, biological effectiveness, cost-benefit and the timeframes within which the standards could practically be implemented; and to prepare a report with recommendations that will enable the Committee to decide on the standards that should be included in the text of the Convention.

GloBallast Programme update

The MEPC was updated on the GEF/UNDP/IMO GloBallast Programme (see ). The programme is partly aimed at helping Member States to prepare in advance so that they will be in a position to implement fully the provisions of the Convention when it enters into force.

The following activities under the GEF/UNDP/IMO GloBallast Programme have been carried out since MEPC 46 in April 2001:

1          Port Baseline Surveys have been completed successfully in all the six demonstration sites (Sepetiba, Brazil; Dalian, China; Mumbai, India; Kharg Island, Iran; Saldanha, South Africa; Odessa, Ukraine.

2          The legislative review under the Programme has been completed and the final report, including the outcome of the 1st International Workshop on Legal Aspects of Ballast Water Management and Control, held in November 2001, and hosted by the World Maritime University (Malmö, Sweden), will be available shortly;

3          Substantial progress has been made in fostering regional co-operation at each demonstration site.  The most significant achievement in regional cooperation has been the establishment of the Regional Project Task Force in the Black Sea region.  During the Black Sea Conference on Ballast Water Management and Control, held in October 2001, the six coastal states involved adopted a Resolution to approve the Regional Action Plan and to urge IMO, UNDP and GEF to secure continuation of the GloBallast Programme within the timeframe needed to ensure a seamless implementation of the forthcoming IMO Convention; and

4          In January 2002, at the Global Project Task Force Meeting in Goa (India), all the six pilot countries expressed strong support for the extension of the GloBallast Programme by one year.

The priorities of the GloBallast Programme during the coming months include initiation of risk assessment activities in all the pilot countries and continuing of regional co-operation focusing on the replication of the experience achieved through the Kharg Island demonstration site for the ROPME Sea Area in the other countries of the region.

Other issues addressed by MEPC 47

Ship Recycling

The MEPC reviewed the issue of ship recycling and generally agreed that IMO has an important role to play in ship recycling, including developing measures covering the preparation of a ship before recycling commences, and a co-ordinating role in relation to the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Basel Convention (on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Waste and Their Disposal) in recycling matters. 

The MEPC agreed that IMO, for the time being, should develop recommendatory guidelines to be adopted by an Assembly resolution. The MEPC agreed to use as a basis for the guidelines the  “Industry Code of Practice”, which was developed by an Industry Working Party on Ship Recycling.

The industry group included participants from Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO), International Association of Dry Cargo Shipowners (INTERCARGO), International Association of Independent Tanker Owners (INTERTANKO), International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), International Tanker Owners’ Pollution Federation (ITOPF), International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), Oil Companies’ International Marine Forum (OCIMF) and observers from European Community Shipowners’ Associations (ECSA) and International Association of Classification Societies (IACS).

A Working Group met during the session and developed the following:

-         the draft outline of IMO guidelines on ship recycling;

-         views on the role of IMO in ship recycling;

-         a work plan, including the use of correspondence and working groups;

-         a preliminary draft Assembly resolution on ship recycling which would adopt the proposed guidelines on recycling of ships and invite the MEPC to work  further on the issue.

The Committee agreed to the re-establishment of a Correspondence Group on ship recycling to further develop the guidelines and agreed to continue the co-operation with ILO and the Basel Convention. The MEPC also agreed to request input to the draft guidelines from the Bulk Liquids and Gases (BLG), Ship Design and Equipment (DE) and Flag State Implementation (FSI) Sub-Committees.

The Committee also agreed, in principle, that the Working Group on Ship Recycling would be re-established at the next two MEPC sessions to further the work.

IMO’s role in the recycling of ships, the terminology used to refer to ship scrapping, was first raised at the 44th MEPC session in March 2000 following which a correspondence group was established to research this issue and provide a range of information about current ship recycling practices and suggestions on the role of IMO.

Greenhouse gas emissions 

An MEPC Working Group considered issues relating to greenhouse gas emissions during the session. Although their contribution is relatively small, ships nevertheless do emit greenhouse gases and, because they operate worldwide, IMO has been specifically requested to deal with emissions from ships under the Kyoto Protocol of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). 

Following discussion in the Working Group and in plenary, the MEPC agreed to establish a Correspondence Group to collate information received and prepare an IMO Strategy/Policy on greenhouse gas emissions from ships. This would include development of a draft Assembly resolution on the matter.

The Working Group noted that one approach included the idea of an environmental indexing system for ships, to assess an individual ship’s environmental performance in relation to greenhouse gas emissions. The Committee agreed that the idea provided a basis for future work.

Fuel oil sampling – guidelines adopted

The MEPC adopted “Guidelines for the Sampling of Fuel Oil for Determination of Compliance with Annex VI of MARPOL 73/78”.

The guidelines are an important element in the MEPC’s work in progressing towards implementation of Annex VI on Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973, as modified by the Protocol of 1978 relating thereto (MARPOL 73/78).  The regulations in this annex, when they come into force, will set limits on sulphur oxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from ship exhausts and prohibit deliberate emissions of ozone depleting substances.

The Annex was adopted in September 1997 and will enter into force 12 months after being ratified by 15 States whose combined fleets of merchant shipping constitute at least 50% of the world fleet. To date, four acceptances representing 14.05 per cent of world tonnage have been received.  A Resolution (adopted by the conference that adopted Annex VI) invites IMO's Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) to identify any impediments to entry into force of the Protocol, if the conditions for entry into force have not been met by 31 December 2002.

Tanker Condition Assessment Scheme – Model Survey Plan

MEPC 47 approved a Model Survey Plan for tankers, intended to help in carrying out the Condition Assessment Scheme (CAS) for certain tankers.

The MEPC Circular containing the Model Survey Plan also includes:

- a Guidance Note for the Safe Conduct of CAS surveys which has been developed for the safe conduct of CAS Surveys, including protection of individuals involved; and
- CAS Schedule giving a flow chart diagram and time scales for the CAS.

The CAS was adopted in April 2001 during the adoption of a revised regulation 13G of the MARPOL Convention Annex I on the prevention of pollution by oil from ships. The revised regulation is expected to enter into force in September 2002.

The Committee also agreed draft amendments to the CAS to make mandatory the Model Survey Plan and to adopt Mandatory Requirements for the Safe Conduct of CAS Surveys (based on the guidance referred to above). The amendments are intended to be adopted once the revised regulation 13G enters into force.

The CAS will have to be applied to certain Category 1 vessels continuing to trade after 2005 and certain Category 2 vessels after 2010.

Although the CAS does not specify structural standards in excess of the provisions of other IMO conventions, codes and recommendations, its requirements stipulate more stringent and transparent verification of the reported structural condition of the ship and that documentary and survey procedures have been properly carried out and completed.

The requirements of the CAS include enhanced and transparent verification of the reported structural condition of the ship and verification that the documentary and survey procedures have been properly carried out and completed. The Scheme requires that compliance with the CAS is assessed during the Enhanced Survey Programme of Inspections concurrent with intermediate or renewal surveys currently required by resolution A.744(18), as amended.

The revised regulation 13G sets a new accelerated phase-out schedule for single hull oil tankers.

It identifies three categories of tankers, as follows: “Category 1 oil tanker” means oil tankers of 20,000 tons deadweight and above carrying crude oil, fuel oil, heavy diesel oil or lubricating oil as cargo, and of 30,000 tons deadweight and above carrying other oils, which do not comply with the requirements for protectively located segregated ballast tanks (commonly known as Pre-MARPOL tankers). “Category 2 oil tanker” means oil tankers of 20,000 tons deadweight and above carrying crude oil, fuel oil, heavy diesel oil or lubricating oil as cargo, and of 30,000 tons deadweight and above carrying other oils, which do comply with the protectively located segregated ballast tank requirements (MARPOL tankers), while “Category 3 oil tanker” means an oil tanker of 5,000 tons deadweight and above but less than the tonnage specified for Category 1 and 2 tankers.

Harmful effects of the use of anti-fouling paints for ships

The MEPC considered follow-up action to the adoption in October 2001 of the International Convention on the control of harmful anti-fouling systems on ships. Under the terms of the new Convention, Parties to the Convention are required to prohibit and/or restrict the use of harmful anti-fouling systems on ships flying their flag, as well as ships not entitled to fly their flag but which operate under their authority and all ships that enter a port, shipyard or offshore terminal of a Party.  

The MEPC requested the Flag State Implementation (FSI) Sub-Committee to urgently develop the following guidelines as a matter of urgency, as required by the Convention:

1.      Guidelines for brief sampling of ships anti-fouling systems;

2.      Guidelines for inspection of ships anti-fouling systems; and

3.      Guidelines for survey.

The MEPC requested the FSI Sub-Committee to give priority to the development of the Guidelines on Surveys of Anti-fouling Systems which should be finalized by the end of 2002.

The harmful environmental effects of organotin compounds were recognized by IMO in 1989.   In 1990 IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) adopted a resolution which recommended that Governments adopt measures to eliminate the use of anti-fouling paint containing TBT on non-aluminium hulled vessels of less than 25 metres in length and eliminate the use of anti-fouling paints with a leaching rate of more than four microgrammes of TBT per day.  

In November 1999, IMO adopted an Assembly resolution that called on the MEPC to develop an instrument, legally binding throughout the world, to address the harmful effects of anti-fouling systems used on ships.  The resolution called for a global prohibition on the application of organotin compounds which act as biocides in anti-fouling systems on ships by 1 January 2003, and a complete prohibition by 1 January 2008.

The new convention will enter into force 12 months after 25 States representing 25% of the world's merchant shipping tonnage have ratified it.

Annex I attached to the Convention and adopted by the Conference states that by an effective date of 1 January 2003, all ships shall not apply or re-apply organotins compounds which act as biocides in anti-fouling systems.

By 1 January 2008 (effective date), ships either:

(a)        shall not bear such compounds on their hulls or external parts or surfaces; or

(b)        shall bear a coating that forms a barrier to such compounds leaching from the underlying non-compliant anti-fouling systems.

This applies to all ships (excluding fixed and floating platforms, floating storage units (FSUs), and Floating Production Storage and Offtake units (FPSOs).

The MEPC noted information provided by the delegate of the European Commission that a ban on the marketing of organotin-based anti-fouling systems would come into force in all 15 EU Member States starting on 1 January 2003.

New Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas adopted

The MEPC adopted resolutions granting Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA) status to:

1.         Malpelo Island proposed by Colombia; and
2.         Around the Florida Keys proposed by the United States.

The other two PSSAs already adopted by IMO are the Great Barrier Reef, Australia and the Sabana-Camagüey Archipelago in Cuba.

When an area is approved as a particularly sensitive sea area, specific measures can be used to control the maritime activities in that area, such as routeing measures, strict application of MARPOL discharge and equipment requirements for ships, such as oil tankers; and installation of Vessel Traffic Services (VTS).

Manual on Oil Pollution

The MEPC’s OPRC (Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response) Drafting Group finalized the revised draft text of  Section IV of the Manual on Oil Pollution and the MEPC agreed to consider the text with a view to approval and publication at its next session.

Inadequacy of reception facilities

The MEPC discussed the issue of inadequate reception facilities for waste (such as oily waste or garbage) in view of the small number of official reports on alleged lack of adequate reception facilities received each year, despite the evidence from industry organizations, which receive reports from their members, that the provision of adequate facilities in many ports is apparently lacking. 

The MEPC agreed to further consider implementation of the reporting mechanism of inadequate reception facility at MEPC 48 in October 2002.

The MEPC also strongly encouraged the Member States, particularly those Parties to MARPOL 73/78 as port States, to fulfil their treaty obligations on providing adequate reception facilities.

Note to Editors:

The 47th session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee was chaired by Mr Mike Julian of Australia and was held at IMO Headquarters in London between 4th and 8th March. 

IMO - the International Maritime Organization - is the United Nations specialized agency with responsibility for the safety of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships.

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