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Today's Feature


Now that Japan has signed, ballast water costs will soon cascade down to the industry


Shipowners, to mention shippers and consumers when costs cascade down upon them, must soon face new and expensive regulations on ballast water treatment, warns the insurance industry.

Last week, Japan announced ratification of the ballast water convention, and only 2.98 per cent remains of the 35 per cent global tonnage required to enforce it.

Already BIMCO and the International Chamber of Shipping have come out to demand a cost benefit analysis to review such schemes before they put more people out of work because they cannot afford the compliance costs while hiring more people in ever growing inspectorates which slow the economic recovery.

Now the Ballast Water Management Convention 2004 requires shipowners to understand compliance standards, develops a ballast water management plan, selects and installs a treatment system and trains personnel to operate the system. Ships will be subject to surveys and inspections to maintain certification.

The convention requires ratification by 30 states, accounting for 35 per cent of world merchant tonnage. To date, state signatures amounting to 29 per cent of that tonnage have been obtained with the remainder expected shortly.

This would seem to be the right time to lobby those states which have not ratified to insist on a cost benefit analysis of the regulations - how much damage ballast water has actually done - as opposed to what it could do, would do and might do some day in the future.

The International Maritime Organisation's Marine Environment Protection Committee is meeting this week in London to discuss the imminent implementation of the convention.

Developments are summarised in a legal briefing on environmental law, just issued by the UK insurers the P&I Club.

"There is strong support for the Ballast Water Management Convention, given the damage caused to the environment by invasive alien species, depletion of fish stocks and the high cost of controlling these effects. However, ballast water management systems must avoid harming ship, crew, environment and public health - and gain formal approval, in the UK from classification societies," according to their briefing.

But one wonders what impact ballast water has from on depletion of fish stocks when the standard cause is over fishing. Even the Europeans ban on the harvesting of baby seals, is said to have depleted the cod stocks off Newfoundland. And for all the fuss made of Asia carp getting into the Great Lakes, we have heard very little about it since the threat was announced.

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