From Ballast Water Treatment Technology. Published on March 22, 2016.

When the International Maritime Organization’s Ballast Water Management Convention (BWMC) enters into force, implementation will require a very large capital investment by the shipping industry in a relatively short period of time. More than 60,000 vessels will need to install ballast water management systems (BWMSs) so, at an average cost of US$1-2 million per vessel, the industry will need to make a capital investment well in excess of US$60 billion.

Given the size of the investment, it would be preferable if owners could be certain that their investments will result in regulatory compliance. Unfortunately, that certainty does not currently exist.

We find ourselves in a situation in which owners could be required by the BWMC to install treatment systems without having certainty that those systems would comply with its discharge standards and without having certainty that those systems could be used to meet treatment requirements in the United States.

That uncertainty comes from the interaction of the two primary regulatory regimes that apply to ballast water.

The first is the BWMC, which will enter into force one year after signatories representing 35 per cent of the world’s tonnage deposit their instruments of ratification. At the time of writing, we are just a fraction of a percentage point short of that threshold. Once the convention enters into force, vessels will have to install treatment systems on a phased schedule.

The second is the US regime, which is actually two separate regimes based on two sets of laws. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates ballast water under its Vessel General Permit issued under the Clean Water Act while the US Coast Guard regulates ballast water under two related invasive species statutes.