Rate this article:  

Although the IMO MEPC has recently agreed to delay the deadline for some vessels to retrofit ballast water treatment systems, certain requirements of the Ballast Water Management Convention must still be complied with by 8 September 2017.

On 7 July 2017, at its 71th session, the IMO Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC) approved draft amendments to regulation B-3 of the Ballast Water Management (BWM) Convention, setting out new deadlines for compliance with the D-2 discharge standard, i.e. the date by which ballast water treatment systems must be installed. The amendments are effectively adding two years to the global installation process, thus giving many vessel owners more time to comply while at the same time allowing new treatment systems, approved under the IMO’s revised G8 guidelines on testing and type approval, to become available on the market. 

But - the BWM Convention introduces two standards for the handling of discharged ballast water: the D-1 standard covering ballast water exchange and D-2 covering ballast water treatment, and requires compliance with either the D-1 or the D-2 standard on or after 8 September 2017. There will be a transitional period from this date when only compliance with the D-1 standard is required, until compliance with the D-2 standard becomes mandatory. It is therefore important to keep in mind that, despite the IMOs recent agreement to delay the deadline for some vessels to retrofit a treatment system, the deadline for vessels to comply with the D-1 standard on ballast water exchange is non-negotiable, as are the Convention’s requirements covering BWM documentation to be carried onboard. 

New implementation schedule for compliance with the D-2 standard
The amended regulation B-3, as approved by MEPC71, require new vessels (vessels constructed/keel-laid on or after 8 September 2017) to comply with the D-2 standard and have a ballast water treatment system installed upon delivery. For existing vessels (vessels constructed prior to entry into force of the Convention), the MEPC stands by its decision to use the renewal of a vessel’s International Oil Pollution Prevention (IOPP) certificate as the mechanism to define the phase-in schedule but applying "on or after 8 September 2019" as the start of the phase-in period. As a result, the date by which all ships must have installed a ballast water treatment system has been extended from 2022 to 2024. 

The principles of the new implementation schedule for compliance with the D-2 standard is illustrated in the figure below and the details are provided here.

Source: Gard AS

The MEPC71 also agreed that existing vessels not holding an IOPP certificate shall be D-2 compliant no later than 8 September 2024.


The draft amendments to regulation B-3 will be submitted to MEPC72 in spring 2018 - after the BWM Convention has entered into force – with a view to their adoption at that meeting. Members and clients are advised to carefully examine and consider their vessels’ individual IOPP renewal dates so as to ensure compliance in due time.


Prepare for 8 September 2017
Members and clients are reminded that the BWM Convention applies to almost all vessels in international trade using ballast water, including submersibles, floating craft, floating platforms, FSUs and FPSOs, and that, after 8 September 2017, such vessels must:  


  • have an approved BWM Plan onboard (regulation B-1);
  • maintain a ballast water record book (regulation B-2);
  • for a vessel of 400 gross tonnes and above, be surveyed and issued with an international ballast water management certificate (regulations E-1/E-2);
  • assign a competent officer to manage ballast water and to train officers and crew so that they can carry out their respective duties; and
  • manage their ballast water on every voyage, either by performing ballast water exchange (regulations B-4/D-1) or by operating an approved ballast water treatment system (regulations B-3/D-2).


Vessels registered with a flag administration that is not yet a party to the BWM Convention will need to demonstrate compliance and are advised to undergo surveys and be issued with a ‘document of compliance’.


Floating platforms, FSUs and FPSOs may be exempted from certain requirements of the Convention as it is up to the relevant shelf state authority to establish appropriate measures for these units. If a BWM Certificate is not required by the shelf authorities, the requirements of the Convention become applicable only during relocation of the unit. Please refer to IMO’s BWM.2/Circ.46 “Application of the BWM Convention to Mobile Offshore Units” for a list of technical alternatives to ensure compliance.


Members and clients trading to ports in the United States (US) are also reminded that the US is not signatory to the BWM Convention, that vessels discharging ballast water into the waters of the US must comply with the requirements of 33 CFR 151 Subparts C and D, and that ballast water exchange in accordance with the Convention’s D-1 standard may not be an acceptable BWM method under the US ballast water regulations. The differences between acceptable BWM methods under US regulations and the BWM Convention are also highlighted in a post on the Coast Guard Maritime Commons blog on 5 July 2017.


Additional sources of information
Gard has issued two Member Circulars on the BWM Convention, No.4/2017 in July 2017 and No. 17/2016 in January 2017, advising Members that liabilities (including fines for inadvertently introducing untreated ballast into the environment) arising from the escape or discharge overboard of untreated ballast through a “faulty” approved system, or other environmental liabilities related to ballast, are capable of cover, subject always to the Rules and any terms and conditions of cover. Cover for other fines relating to a breach of the BWM requirements are only available on a discretionary basis.


For those still in the process of planning the installation of a ballast water treatment system, key elements of the preparatory work is also highlighted in our Alert “Prepare to manage ballast water“ of 8 December 2016.


For those trading on US ports, our Gard Alert “US Coast Guard provides additional ’post type-approval’ guidance to its ballast water regulations“ of 15 March 2017 may be of interest. Remember also that the State of California enforces its own BWM regulations applicable to “vessels that arrive at a California port, are 300 gross registered tons or more, and are carrying or capable of carrying ballast water”. An overview of the current California requirements can be found in the information sheet “California’s Management Requirements for Ballast Water and Biofouling” published by the California State Land Commission (SLC). In a letter of 13 July 2017, the SCL confirms that using any of the US Coast Guard type approved BWM systems qualifies as being in compliance with the current California BWM Regulations, provided that the method used is also described in the mandatory forms and reports on BWM. A separate information sheet on “Reporting and Recordkeeping” is also available.


Kristin Urdahl
by Kristin Urdahl
Senior Loss Prevention Executive, Gard AS