In order to comply with the BWM Convention, various ship owners were being forced to install a treatment system. However, in light of this requirement, ship owners were attempting to postpone the day of installation of the treatment system by opting for an early dry docking. By doing so, the renewal of the IOPP certificate – which defines the compliance date for vessels to meet the D-2 Discharge Performance Standard – could have been postponed for five years from the dry docking date. Interestingly, in recent years, this loophole delaying the compliance date of ship owners was indeed being heavily exploited in practice.

It is an established fact that ships are required to carry a number of statutory certificates documenting their compliance with the various IMO conventions and codes. However, since all certificates require a survey, ships frequently needed to renew one certificate or another, which was proving to be both cumbersome and time-consuming. Consequently, in 2000, the International Maritime Organisation adopted the Harmonised System of Statutory Certificates (HSSC) permitting all certificates to be issued or renewed simultaneously. One of the certificates included in the system is the IOPP.

Although the raison d’être behind the HSSC may have been of benefit to ship owners, the HSSC is in fact optional unless made otherwise by a flag state. In practice, ship owners observed that by decoupling the IOPP from the harmonised process, they gained five years of leeway before being required to undergo the next renewal survey at which point a treatment system would need to be installed, provided no further exemption was granted.

However, as was evident in the 71st meeting of the Marine Environment Protection Committee, some ship owners who decoupled the IOPP Certificate from the harmonised process (in order to renew their IOPP Certificate early to delay having to fit ballast water management systems) now regret doing so and are in fact trying to revert to their ships’ original schedules. This is because some owners realised that if they had kept with their ships’ original schedules, the timetable agreed to at the meeting may have, in fact, given them five years beyond their original renewal date.

In reality, there was no automatic right for ship owners to take advantage of this loophole – which had to be completed before the 8th of September – but indeed a substantial list of flag states considered it. In fact, whilst certain flag states have given ship owners carte blanche to make the arrangements, others have taken a more cautious approach and required ship owners to apply on a case-by-case basis.

From a Maltese perspective, although Transport Malta encouraged ship owners/operators to maintain the harmonisation of all statutory certification, it also recognised the fact that there were various situations where the IOPP renewal survey would need to be carried out at an earlier date. Therefore, in light of the aforementioned, Transport Malta indeed allowed the earlier implementation and hence de-harmonisation of the IOPP renewal survey to all vessels, irrespective of the due date of the scheduled IOPP renewal survey.

Consequently, the early implementation and de-harmonisation of the IOPP renewal surveys meant that a further case-by-case authorisation from Transport Malta was no longer requested. However, for record purposes, Transport Malta had to be informed as soon as such early IOPP renewal surveys were completed, with a copy of the new IOPP certificate and also a copy of the SoC-IBWM Convention certificate to be forwarded on the following email address: tech.tm@transport.gov.mt.

Co-author: Brandon Meli