Balancing the possible and the practical in regulation

Paul Fanning_Marine Propulsion1

Paul Fanning

The recent news that Saint Lucia has become the latest flag state to accede the Ballast Water Management Convention will have brought some cheer to IMO, but it comes in the light of some robust criticism from other quarters.

Some of this has come from the International Chamber of Shipping, which used its 2016 Annual Review to criticise IMO’s handling of the Convention, saying: “The main reason why governments have been so reluctant to ratify the Convention has been due to a lack of confidence in the IMO type-approval process and whether, among many other technical questions, the treatment equipment approved in line with current IMO Guidelines would actually work to the satisfaction of Port State Control authorities.”

Another take on this came from Rear Admiral Paul Thomas, US Coast Guard Assistant Commandant for Prevention Policy, who, in a blog posted on the Coast Guard Maritime Commons site, offered a defence of the USCG’s decision to set its own type-approval systems that also amounted to an effective criticism of the IMO’s approach to the ballast water issue.

“Robust, mandatory, consistent and transparent type-approval procedures coupled with testing protocols carried out by independent authorities are critical to ensure the complex systems developed to meet environmental stretch goals are, in fact, reliable and effective. Type-approval procedures that are not mandatory, that can be applied inconsistently, and that are not transparent introduce market uncertainty, and make it difficult for regulators to incentivise ‘early adopters’,” wrote Admiral Thomas.

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