• 20 June 2024

The neglected crisis of ballast water treatment systems

  • News
  • Flowrate > 500 m3/h
  • Flowrate < 100m3/h
  • Flowrate 100 - 500 m3/h

Pablo Rodas-Martini* describes himself as an author and speaker “bewitched by ships and ports” who firmly believes the shipping industry should trust in the science when it comes to decarbonisation and the environment.

Thousands of ships still do not have ballast water treatment systems (BWTS) on board and thousands more BWTS do not work properly. Why has such a critical maritime issue – the entry into force of the D-2 regulation – lost all interest and almost disappeared from the maritime media, let alone the mainstream media?

The number of news stories about the regulation is shockingly… low: less than 50 in the last year and less than five in the last month.

Comparing the global coverage of decarbonising shipping with the coverage of the D-2 ballast water regulation is like comparing Mount Everest with a metre-high mound of earth. I am passionate about decarbonising shipping, but for years, I have loved the subject of ballast water, a subject that goes back to the first navigators who sailed to unknown lands and which has turned many corners of the oceans into worse ecosystems as alien species have colonised them (some may be better ecosystems, but they must be a significant minority).

I commend the work of Riviera, the only maritime media in my Excel file of over 300 maritime media companies around the world that I have registered over the years, for persistently reporting on ballast water, devoting many articles to the D-2 regulation and even creating an electronic clock that, at the time of writing, shows 102 days, 10 hours, 26 minutes, 02 seconds to the day when all ships in the world over 400 gt will have to comply with the D-2 regulation under the IMO Ballast Water Convention on 8 September 2024. More than half of the news articles published in the maritime media on the wider subject of ballast water come from Riviera.

All the other shipping media may run an article now and again, but you will not find a dedicated page on their websites, almost as if all ships already have BWTS installed (which is not the case) and as if all the BWTS currently installed are working perfectly (which is also not the case).

The D-2 regulation sets strict limits on the concentration of viable organisms allowed in ballast water discharges and, therefore, requires the use of BWTS. Just imagine: we are approaching the deadline when all ships will have to have a system that was not used a few decades ago when the initial research took place in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

There has been a massive installation of BWTS, but many ships still do not have them and many of the systems on board are not delivering the expected results. The deadline should be the subject of intense debate and analysis rather than being ignored, especially when shipowners and ship operators are well aware of the systems they have on their fleets, and certainly many of them must be very concerned.

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