Just in Time: ABS Ballast Water Treatment Advisory

Edited by Joseph Keefe

ABS has updated its guidance for ballast water management (BWM) and launched a ballast water management system (BWMS) selection service for shipowners and operators.

The third edition of the American Bureau of Shipping’s (ABS) Ballast Water Treatment Advisory brings vessel owners and operators up to speed with the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments, 2004, and the latest requirements in the United States. And, not a moment too soon.
In simple terms, the IMO’s BWM Convention was created to provide global regulation that is designed to prevent the spread of harmful aquatic organisms from the ballast water and sediments carried by ships. But, its ratification requires approval from 30 of the IMO’s member states who control at least 35% of the world’s fleet tonnage; as of October 17, 43 members had signed, representing 32.54% of global tonnage. With the goal in sight, progress in meeting the tonnage requirements has nevertheless slowed. While the road to ratification has entered a temporary cul de sac, industry remains committed to finding a global solution, according to Debra DiCianna, ABS’s Senior Environmental Solutions Consultant. 
“The 67th meeting of the Marine Environment Protection Committee last month agreed on an aggressive schedule to revise the G8 Guidelines for approval of ballast water management systems and take into account industry concerns. Hopefully, a successful resolution of issues hindering progress will expedite ratification,” Ms DiCianna said. “Invasive species are a significant concern in many areas. I think shipowners are leaning toward an international solution instead of a series of individual requirements.”

An Expanded Advisory
ABS’s expanded advisory also covers some of the requirements for ballast water management (BWM) in the United States, such as the U.S. Coast Guard’s (USCG) ballast water management regulations, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Vessel General Permit and ballast water regulations for various states. It offers a summary of global BWM requirements and a new section on tools for sampling and monitoring. With a significant number of new rules emerging, shipowners whose ships trade globally face an increasingly complex challenge to comply with BWM regulations.
For example, many requirements for type approval of BWMS in the USCG regulation are not included in the IMO BWM Convention or related guidelines. The USCG implementation schedule also slightly varies because compliance is tied to a vessel’s scheduled drydocking, not specific surveys. Table 7 from the Advisory, for example, provides details for these schedules:
Similar to the BWM Convention, the USCG’s program includes requirements for ballast water management, reporting and recordkeeping. All vessels with ballast tanks – unless specifically exempt – must comply with all three aspects of the regulation.
“In the US, the same discharge standards need to be achieved as with the IMO’s Convention so, in that context, they are no more stringent. The difference is that USCG type approval is more prescriptive,” Ms DiCianna says. “The U.S. is, however, unique in developing its own regulations that are not tied to the IMO Convention. If the convention is not ratified, additional countries may be tempted to go a similar route.”
The USCG exempts crude oil tankers engaged in US coastwise trade and vessels that operate exclusively in one ‘Captain of the Port’ (COPT) zone from the BWM, reporting and record-keeping requirements of its regulation. Other vessels exempt from the BWM requirements of the regulation – but not reporting and recordkeeping – regulation include: seagoing vessels of not more than 1,600 GRT that operate in multiple COPT zones but not outside the U.S.’s 200 nautical-mile Exclusive Economic Zone; non-seagoing vessels; and vessels that take on and discharge ballast water exclusively within one COPT Zone.
For ballast water management, non-exempt vessels are required to select one of the following options:


  • Installation of a BWM system that has been type approved by the USCG;
  • use only water from a U.S. public system for ballast;
  • perform complete ballast water exchanges at least 200 nautical miles from shore prior to discharging ballast water, unless required to achieve the discharge standards;
  • use a USCG accepted alternate management system, unless required to use a USCG type approved BWMS;
  • no discharge of ballast water; and
  • discharge to an onshore facility or another vessel for treatment purposes only

$1 Million Question (s)
For owners whose ships fly the U.S. flag or call at U.S. ports, the million-dollar question is when the USCG type-approve a BWMS. The USCG’s type approval process is confidential, although some vendors have said recently that testing with qualified independent laboratories has been scheduled. The type approval process may take between 15 months to two years, by some estimates. 
“The process of USCG type approval has begun,” says DiCianna. “The big questions are how long the testing will require and when the first USCG type approved system will be available.” For the interim, the USCG has chosen to allow approved Alternate Management Systems (AMS) to allow foreign type-approved systems to be installed and operated on ships for up to five years after they need to be in compliant with the U.S. standards.
For shipowners, nagging doubts about whether anything they install now will pass muster down the road remain. The manufacture of BWMS has been conservatively estimated as an industry which will be worth many billions of dollars over the next decade. Clearly, shipowners have some technically complex, capital-intensive decisions to make. They’ll need help – that’s where ABS comes in.

The ABS BWMS Selection Service
ABS last month launched its BWMS Selection Service to help shipowners and operators navigate the challenges arising from the myriad of new technologies. “Shipowners have increasingly complex environmental issues to address, not least of which is ballast water management; it is complex from the ship operating standpoint, let alone having to select the appropriate system for your specific vessel,” says DiCianna.
She continued, “ABS is offering this new service because it realizes that shipowners will need support to navigate the difficult decision-making process and it has the in-house knowledge to add real value in this area. Shipowners will need support to navigate the difficult decision-making process. The service will help designers, shipyards, owners and operators to find the solution that is best suited to the unique needs of each vessel.”
The selection service is a multi-step process, beginning when ABS’s Operational and Environmental Performance team examines a vessel’s design and operating characteristics, trading patterns and regulatory requirements. That information is matched to an extensive database of BWMS and original manufacturer support networks, giving ABS’s technical specialists the information they need to recommend systems that meet the ship’s regulatory requirements and match the installation criteria for its specific design.
ABS also provides a comparative review of operational and maintenance factors for each system, giving shipowners and operators the information they need to choose the right solution. The service takes advantage of ABS’s deep knowledge of classification and regulatory compliance issues related to BWM. Information from the updated advisory, for example, formed an integral part of the unique methodology created for the selection service.

The ABC’s of EPA’s VGP
Aside from the USCG updates, the advisory also offers the latest updates on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Vessel General Permit (VGP), which regulates discharges -- including ballast water -- incidental to the normal operation of non-military and non-recreational vessels.
The 2013 VGP became effective in December of last year, adding to the list of ballast water requirements. It only applies to vessels operating within three nautical miles of the U.S. shore and has some notable difference to the USCG regulations, such as the removal of the exemption for crude oil tankers engaged in coastwise trade and the requirement for monitoring. For example, vessels excluded from VGP requirements and reporting include:

  • Those that travel less than 10 nautical miles and which do not cross physical barriers (such as locks), whether or not they operate within one COPT zone;
  • Unmanned, unpowered barges;
  • Those with a ballast-water capacity of less than 8m3; and
  • ‘Lakers’ built before 2009.

As if it weren’t complicated enough, the EPA included detailed monitoring requirements for vessels operating BWMS. It requires three areas of monitoring: system functionality, biological indicator organisms, and residual biocides and derivatives. Functionality monitoring is intended to ensure that the BWMS is operating in line with manufacturer’s specifications. The EPA has identified metrics for 18 types of technology that will require monthly recording, but the exact number of metrics that will require documentation will depend on the type of treatment technology that is employed.
Due to the current constraints for monitoring live organisms in the ballast water, the EPA listed three ‘indicator’ organisms for monitoring. Specifically, these include heterotrophic bacteria, E. coli, and enterococci. The monitoring of residual biocides and their derivatives is related to the active ingredients -- such as chlorine, ozone, peracetic acid and hydrogen peroxide -- that may be used to kill any organisms found in ballast water.
The updated advisory also has a section on the tools being developed for ballast water sampling and monitoring. These tools, when validated, will aid shipowners to monitor the operating performance of the BWMS. Understanding the requirements and procedures for ballast water monitoring is important for shipowners, operators and shipbuilders to ensure that BWMS are operating properly.
The port state control guidelines recently approved at MEPC 67 identifies two type of analysis: indicative (a quick assessment of compliance potential) and detailed (thorough analysis of live organisms). For a comparison of the two types of analyses, see the chart below.
“We are likely to see more specific requirements for sampling. Various bodies are working on sampling protocols and test equipment to ‘simplify’ sampling for shipowners and port state control,” Ms DiCianna said. “Work is needed to validate the tools being developed to determine their use. Sampling requirements cannot be overly cumbersome. A simple method of sampling and analysis would help shipowners to ensure their BWM systems are operating as designed.”

U.S. States weigh in and ABS is there
No discussion of ballast water regulations and invasive species would be complete without also discussing the unilateral, Balkanized actions taken by U.S. states – all 16 of them. To that end, and also included in the ABS advisory, with its thorough overview of U.S. regulation, is a comprehensive section on individual state requirements.
To date, 16 states in the U.S. have specific BWM requirements, predominantly those situated on the U.S. West Coast, the northeastern seaboard and of course, the Great Lakes. California, with a two-pronged approach governing BWM and hull-fouling for ships exceeding 300 GRT, is considered to have enacted the most stringent regulation. New York’s statute, similarly onerous, came under severe criticism from its Canadian neighbors who felt it would impact commerce. That policy has since evolved.
The 80-page advisory also offers timely, informative sections on available ballast water treatment technologies, BWM options and USCG BWMS approval procedures. The guide looks at how to select the “best” system for the unique requirements of individual ships, including what a shipowner may need to consider when installing a BWMS, life-cycle costs, vendor qualifications and other critical variables. For owners with ships built before most BWM regulation was created, it also has a comprehensive section on retrofitting.

(As published in the 4Q 2014 edition of Maritime Professional - www.maritimeprofessional.com)

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