The International Convention for the Control and Management of Ship’s Ballast Water and Sediments (BWM) is expected to enter into force in the near future as it is very close to obtaining the percentage approvals by States and the representation of the world Merchant Tonnage.

As an island state which heavily depends on the sea for its tourism, Malta welcomes the news that such Convention will soon be implemented. The increase in the number of jellyfish over the past years as well as the introduction of invasive alien species in our waters have very often seen fishermen, local bathers and tourists point their finger at the shipping industry.

Although the solution to fit new machinery on board vessels capable of curing this water seems to be an obvious one, it is imperative to be aware of the costs for compliance by the ship owners. A ballast water treatment system can cost anywhere between USD$500,000 and USD$5,000,000, not to mention the ancillary costs relating to the development of a ballast water management plan. In addition to this, the US is moving towards adopting a different ballast water treatment mechanism to that accepted by the IMO convention. This discrepancy in the manner in which this issue is tackled might cause issues with ships wishing to operate within the US and who adopt the standards imposed by the IMO.

One cannot really argue that the Convention is a step in the right direction, and yet many in the industry feel that this added financial burden could not have come at a worse time. The industry is still relatively depressed and ship operators are bound to look at such added expenses in a negative light.

For more information on this topic, contact Dr Matthew Attard.