As an island state which has tourism (and the sea) as one of its main sources for national income, the news that this Convention will soon be implemented is indeed welcome. The increase in the number of jellyfish over the past years together with the introduction of invasive alien species in our waters have very often seen fishermen, local bathers and tourists point the finger of blame at the shipping industry.
The industry is on the other hand viewing this development from a different perspective and is justifiably assessing the financial burdens and procedural implications which such new rules inevitably bring with them when implemented. Compliance implies the necessity of fitting new machinery on board vessels capable of treating water and this machinery requires a considerable investment.
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. One also needs to consider the implications on land and the manner in which States may need to construct facilities capable of treating and storing this water.
The Maltese flag, Europe’s largest and number six on the world’s list, recognises the environmental benefits of the Convention. However, as always, the competent authorities have been very sensitive towards studying the impact that the BWM convention will have on the operators and owners of Vessels.
Malta has always sought to balance the needs of the environment with the commercial realities faced by the industry which has far from recovered from the crises affecting it. In addition to this, Malta is also very aware that the US is moving towards adopting a different ballast water treatment mechanism to that accepted by the IMO convention.
The discrepancy in the manner in which this matter is tackled might cause issues with ships wishing to operate within the US and who adhere to the standards imposed by the IMO.
Malta will remain consistent in its efforts to ensure that international shipping standards continue to improve but will be doing so rationally and carefully, trying to balance the interest of the environment and the players in the market along the way.
This article was published in Malta Transport Shipping & Port (Special Supplement No. 26 of August 3rd, 2015)