ICS chief on ballast water regime: 'We have to get this right'

The following is the text of a news release from the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS):

(LONDON) — The International Maritime Organization (IMO) Ballast Water Management (BWM) Convention will enter into force on Sept. 8.

“The industry may collectively need to spend around $100 billion (U.S.) in order to install the new ballast water treatment systems that will be required by law. We therefore have to get this right,” said Esben Poulsson, chairman of the International Chamber of Shipping.

Poulsson has called on shipowners, equipment manufacturers and governments to cooperate to ensure that proper implementation of this significant new regulatory regime will deliver maximum environment benefit.

“We need to ensure, so far as practicable, that the systems installed on ships will indeed be fit for purpose in all known operating conditions worldwide. We are therefore advising shipping companies that they should make it clear to equipment manufacturers they will only consider fitting treatment systems which have been certified in accordance with the revised IMO type-approval standards adopted in 2016, even though this is not yet a mandatory requirement,” Poulsson said.

ICS has welcomed the important decision, made by IMO in July, to adjust the implementation dates of the convention, so that existing ships (i.e. ships constructed before Sept. 8) will not be required to install treatment systems until the date of their first International Oil Pollution Prevention (IOPP) renewal survey after Sept. 8, 2019.

“We acknowledge the pragmatic approach to implementation taken by IMO member states who accepted the arguments made by ICS and other industry associations that there is little logic, from an environmental protection standpoint, in requiring thousands of ships to comply until they can be fitted with systems that have been approved under the more stringent standards,” Poulsson said.

“Shipowners must make full use of this additional time to identify and invest in far more robust technology to the benefit of the environment,” he said. “And in view of the significant concessions that IMO has now made in response to the industry’s representations, shipping companies should not anticipate any further relaxation to the implementation schedule.”

ICS believes that as a result of the industry’s intensive efforts to explain its implementation challenges to regulators, shipowners will hopefully now have the clarity needed to get on with the job.

ICS was previously ambivalent about encouraging flag states to ratify the BWM Convention in advance of some serious implementation issues being fully resolved. But now that the convention is at the point of entry into force, and in recognition of the actions agreed by IMO, ICS is now encouraging all IMO member states to ratify as soon as possible.


The ambitious intention of the IMO BWM Convention is to address the problem of invasive marine organisms having damaging impacts on local ecosystems through their transportation in ships’ ballast tanks. However, when it was adopted in 2004 the technology required for ships to treat millions of gallons of ballast water simply did not exist outside of a laboratory.

In October 2016, following a major industry campaign led by ICS over several years, the IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) finally adopted revised and more robust type-approval standards to be included in what will soon become a mandatory Code for Approval of Ballast Water Management Systems; the previous G8 Guidelines having been found by shipowners to be inadequate in a number of key areas. IMO has recommended that administrations apply these revised standards as soon as possible. However, they will not become mandatory for new system approvals until Oct. 28, 2018 and only systems being installed after October 2020 will be required to have been approved in accordance with the new code.

ICS has therefore developed some advice and information for shipping companies in the form of answers to frequently asked questions which can be found on the ICS website:


Shipping companies have been advised by ICS in these FAQs to put pressure on manufacturers by only considering treatment systems for installation that have been certified in accordance with the revised IMO type-approval standards adopted in 2016.  

By Professional Mariner Staff