Ballast Water Treatment Rollout Should be Revised

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[Guest Editorial]

After over 20 years of research and negotiations, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) are starting to implement and enforce ballast water (BW) regulations. Based on the phase-in schedule, between now and 2024 about 60,000 ships will need to spend an average of $1 million to $2 million each to purchase and install ballast water management systems (BWMS). This is resulting in eye popping predictions about enormous growth in global BWMS markets to well over $100 billion. One global market intelligence report projects these markets “will grow at a compound annual rate of 39.4% starting in 2018 and reach $395.65 billion by 2026.”

Unfortunately, using insights from recent economic research results in different predictions. Based on this view, global BWMS markets will not grow significantly for as many years as it takes for the current strategies that IMO and USCG are using to implement BW regulations to fail and be replaced by ones that nurture BWMS markets.

IMO and USCG BW regulations impose two basic compliance requirements on ship owners. Ships need to purchase and install a type of BWMS that has been tested and officially certified by either IMO or USCG or both as being capable of killing or removing enough potentially harmful organisms in BW for the ship’s BW discharge to meet allowable standards. And, when the BW discharged by those ships is monitored and tested for compliance by port state authorities it must actually meet those allowable BW discharge standards.

As of February 2018, over 70 separate BWMS have been “type approved” by IMO and six by the USCG. However, evidence is mounting that a significant percentage of these type approved BWMS that have been installed on ships are not functioning properly in a mechanical sense. Additional evidence is mounting that a significant percentage of those that are functioning properly are not likely to be able to meet allowable BW discharge standards.

What this means in terms of BW regulations and BWMS markets depends on why certified BWMS are not performing as expected when they are installed on ships. There are three basic possibilities: (1) the units installed on ships had manufacturing defects; (2) they were not scaled correctly to the ballast wate

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