It has been almost a decade since the ballast water convention was adopted by the IMO. And that is far too long, says IMO Secretary General Koji Sekimizu in an interview with ShippingWatch:
"We have debated this matter since the beginning of the 1990s, and the ballast water convention was adopted in 2004, and now it's been almost a decade since the adoption. It really is high time to move into implementation, especially taking into account the uncertainties about the application date, with shipping companies wondering whether they should invest now or whether they should wait," he says.
Strong signal to Panama
As such, the Secretary General sends a clear signal to the member states that have yet to ratify the convention, which has so far prevented implementation of the convention. This encouragement is aimed at, among other nations, Panama, which has a large fleet and has been mentioned as a crucial nation in this regard. For the convention to enter into force the ratifying member states must cover 35 percent or more of the global tonnage, and if Panama ratifies the convention this requirement will be fulfilled. Nations such as the Bahamas, Singapore, and Hong Kong are also considered key players.
The IMO General Assembly in London in late November and early December adopted a resolution for the ballast water convention which means that the implementation period for existing vessels is stretched even further, so that the last ships will not have to install ballast water management systems to comply with the convention until 2021. And this should have a significant effect for the member states, says Koji Sekimizu.
"Now we have clarified all issues relating to the application date. So we have set a very clear timetable. I’m sure that the member governments are seriously working towards ratification of the convention, so therefore I hope that the conditions for entry into force will be met shortly. I definitely hope that they will be met this year, and then one year after that date, meaning before the end of 2015, we should start implementation," he says.
The Secretary General characterizes the ballast water convention as one of the most important conventions adopted by the IMO, particularly in light of the environmental challenges related to the ships' ballast water, which could risk damaging the biodiversity in various regions in the world. And the increasing seaborne trade is not helping either, he says.
"This could have a big environmental impact, so it is clear that the shipping industry has to take action."
When asked whether the IMO has been too lax in putting pressure on the industry to take the convention seriously, Koji Sekimizu says:
"This has been one of the major activities of the MEPC (Marine Environment Protection Committee) over during the last two years, during which they've discussed how to move into implementation. They have debated the difficulties encountered by the shipping industry, and they decided to clarify and clear all issues relating to the implementation date. So we have achieved a major step forward. Now it is up to the member states and the shipping industry to comply."
ShippingWatch has tried unsuccessfully to get a comment from Panama's General Director of Merchant Marine in order to learn whether Panama, following the adoption of the resolution, plans to ratify the convention.
Read the entire interview with Koji Sekimizu between Christmas and New Year.