01 AUG 2004
The issue of ballast water has been on the International Maritime Organization (IMO) agenda for 15 years. However, it was only in February 2004 that the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments (the Ballast Convention) was finally adopted.
Entry into force
Survey, certification and inspection
All possible efforts shall be made to avoid a ship being unduly detained or delayed.
Management and Control Requirements for Ships
Ships are required to have on board and implement a Ballast Water Management Plan specific to each ship with a detailed description of the actions to be taken to implement the ballast water management requirements and supplemental ballast water management practices. New vessels will have to be fitted with equipment for treating ballast water after 2009 and all ships will have to be fitted from 2016. For instance, ships constructed before 2009 with a ballast water capacity of between 1,500 and 5,000 cubic metres must conduct ballast water management that at least meets the ballast water exchange standards or the ballast water performance standards until 2014, after which time they shall at least meet the ballast water performance standard.
Ships must also have a Ballast Water Record Book to record when ballast water is taken on board, circulated or treated for ballast water management purposes and discharged into the sea, or discharged to a reception facility. The book should also record accidental or other exceptional discharges of ballast water.
Other methods of ballast water management may also be accepted as alternatives to the ballast water exchange standard and ballast water performance standard, provided that such methods ensure at least the same level of protection to the environment, human health, property or resources and are approved in principle by the IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC).
All ships using ballast water exchange should, whenever possible, conduct ballast water exchange at least 200 nautical miles from the nearest land and in water at least 200 metres in depth, taking into account guidelines developed by the IMO. If the ship is unable to proceed as above, ballast water exchange should be as far from the nearest land as possible, and in all cases at least 50 nautical miles from the nearest land and in water at least 200 metres in depth. When these requirements can not be met areas may be designated where ships can conduct ballast water exchange. All ships shall remove and dispose of sediments from spaces designated to carry ballast water in accordance with the provisions of the ship’s ballast water management plan.
Standards for Ballast Water Management
Ships conducting ballast water management shall discharge less than 10 viable organisms per cubic metre greater than or equal to 50 micrometres in minimum dimension and less than 10 viable organisms per millilitre less than 50 micrometres in minimum dimension and greater than or equal to 10 micrometres in minimum dimension; and discharge of the indicator microbes shall not exceed the specified concentrations.
Ballast water management systems must be approved by the Administration in accordance with IMO guidelines that include systems which make use of chemicals or biocides, organisms or biological mechanisms or which alter the chemical or physical characteristics of the ballast water.
It should also be remembered that ballast water exchange may influence the stability and structural strength of vessels, as tanks have to be emptied during the sea passage (unless the so-called “pumping through” method is used).
Nevertheless, the Ballast Convention must be regarded as a positive development.