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Experts voice fears on ballast water tests

BALLAST water systems being developed for shipboard use need to be subject to more standardised testing, experts say. Although the ballast water convention has yet to come into force, regional rules on ballast water quality are likely to emerge and owners will be at risk of large fines and even vessel detentions if any onboard treatment technologies fail to meet the exacting standards. The International Maritime Organization developed the ballast water convention as a way to halt the further spread of invasive species around the world’s oceans. The convention, and the
guidelines that the IMO has adopted, stipulate how effective a treatment system must be. When the convention was written there were no approved systems on the market and a whole industry has developed as manufacturers have promoted their ideas. However, experts have warned that system testing needs to be standardised to give owners more confidence in what they will eventually be forced to purchase. The experts, who wished to remain anonymous, told Lloyd’s List that though the tests can be thorough and exact, there needs to be some form of overseeing them to ensure the test facilities around the world perform their tests on developing systems in a comparative way. If a system is tested and approved by a member state of the IMO, owners need to be assured that the equipment will be adequate for their vessels. Failure to comply with either regional rules or with the IMO ballast water convention when it eventually comes into force can lead to hefty fines by port state control. A further complication is the definition of an active substance. It remains up to the national administrations, and the recognised organisations they employ, to determine if an active substance is used in a treatment technology. This is a chemical or other substance that is used or created during the neutralisation process. This needs to be adequately removed from the ballast water before it is discharged into the sea. Some systems on the market employ ultraviolet light or waste exhaust gas as part of the process which many country’s have hitherto failed to recognise as potentially creating harmful by-products. The ballast water convention will come into force 12 months after its ratification by 30 states representing 35% of the world tonnage. To date, 18 states representing 15.4% of the global fleet have ratified the convention.

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