IMO's 67th session of its Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) last week made headway in the protracted debate surrounding the Ballast Water Management (BWM) Convention. One resolution adopted at the meeting called for a review of the technical standards and approval testing procedures for BWM systems. A correspondence group was established to initiate the review.
The resolution also agreed that the early adopters of the technology (owners which have installed type-approved BWMs prior to guideline revision) should not be penalised and port states should not apply criminal sanctions or detain a ship based on sampling during a trial period. A further resolution specified that port state control should try to avoid undue delays to a ship when conducting BWM inspections.
The International Chamber of Shipping welcomed these developments, with secretary general, Peter Hinchliffe, remarking: "We are very pleased that IMO member states have fully acknowledged the shipping industry's concerns by agreeing 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. The adoption by IMO of new port state control guidelines reflecting a fair and pragmatic approach to inspection is also an important additional step." He added: "While some of the details still need to be finalised by the MEPC next year, an MEPC resolution adopted at this meeting should do much to build confidence in the convention amongst both shipowners and IMO member states."
The convention will come into force 12 months after 30 states representing 35% of world tonnage ratify it. Last week's meeting saw Japan and Turkey's ratification, bringing the total to 43 countries, representing 32.54% of tonnage.
The MEPC also approved a draft Polar Code, which covers the design, construction and operation of vessels in polar waters. Mandatory provisions include prevention of oil, noxious liquid, garbage and sewage pollution. The committee will consider the adoption of the Code at its next session in May 2015, paving the way for a possible entry into force on 1 January 2017.
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