New Ballast Water Treatment System Testing Guidelines?

Published Sep 14, 2014 8:45 PM by The Maritime Executive

Op-Ed by Jad Mouawad of Mouawad Consulting

As the ratification of the Ballast Water Management Convention by enough countries to bring it into force seems imminent, one topic on the agenda that is important for the maritime industry is whether MEPC will decide to change Guidelines G8 for type approval or not.

On the table are four documents, MEPC 67/2/5 by the Secretariat related to a study about efficiency of BWM systems, MEPC 67/2/6 submitted by a group of Non Governmental Organizations (NGO) regarding the need to revise the G8 Guidelines, MEPC 67/2/11 submitted by Canada as a compromise solution to implement the BWM Convention and MEPC 67/2/15 by Liberia supporting the paper by the NGOs and informing about how Liberia is improving Type Approval certificates.

It seems that the parties presenting the different papers are far off from each other regarding the way forward for the topic of amending the G8 Guidelines. After careful reading, we note the following:

1. The NGOs and certain flag states are concerned about how Type Approval of BWM Systems is conducted. This concern is not justified in the papers presented nor do the NGOs manage to present examples of systems not working. The NGOs also propose a grand-fathering clause for those ships that have installed systems that might not work.

2. Canada seems to propose a period right after the entry into force of the Convention where systems are used without penal prosecution of ships in case they discharge noncompliant

3. The Secretariat is proposing a study based on interviews and a one-year span to figure out whether systems are actually working or not.

4. Liberia seems to criticize a regime that they have undermined themselves by issuing the type approval certificates they have so their position is strange at best.

Questions to the different parties:

1. Shipowners seem to be buying systems that their associations are claiming are not robustly tested, why are they then buying those systems? Why not buy a system that is proven to be more robust than others?

2. If Administrations don´t agree that the type approval process is not robust, why are they insisting on a very strict sampling regime?


It is Mouawad Consulting’s experience after applying type approval guidelines and USCG type approval regulations on over 40 systems, that changes to regulations have very little effect to the robustness of type approval processes.

Many of the proposals for changes to the G8 Guidelines put forward by NGOs are already implemented by many Administrations (e.g. Norway and Germany) and other Administrations are now including operational data on their type approval certificates.

Some requirements by NGOs (for example testing in different water zones) does not seem to have any scientific basis.

Other requirements, for example testing in fresh water, could be solved without changing the G8 Guidelines: shipowners with ships sailing in fresh water should only buy systems that were tested in fresh water during their type approval process.

Grand-fathering of ships with BWM systems installed onboard implies indirectly that those systems don´t work. MEPC can never accept such a statement as long as it is unsubstantiated.

One critical issue that is absent from the discussion above is how to install, operate and commission treatment systems correctly.

The study proposed by the Secretariat cannot be based on interviews, it must be based on sampling to firmly find out if BWM systems are working onboard ships or not.

What could be a reasonable solution?

It seems to us that a reasonable way forward for the papers above is the following:
• The study proposed by the Secretariat should be based on sampling not interviews with ship owners
• MEPC should not open to amend Guidelines G8 before the Convention enters into force and results of the study proposed by the Secretariat point to the necessity of changing the guidelines
• Administrations should include operational limitations on their type approval certificates and program those operational limitations in the control units of BWM systems
• Any sampling regime must be based on gross exceedance (e.g. 10 x D-2 standard) and never exceedance of the D-2 standard itself to account for the countless of contamination risks there are onboard a ship