The International Maritime Organisation's (IMO) International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments, originally adopted in 2004, has achieved the required number of signatories and will enter into force on September 8 2017. The convention is expected to have a significant impact on ships engaged in international trade, requiring them to manage their ballast water and sediments to certain minimum standards and to install onboard ballast water management systems.
Invasive aquatic species present a major threat to the marine ecosystems, and shipping has been identified as a major pathway for introducing species to new environments. The problem increased as trade and traffic volume expanded over the last few decades, and in particular with the introduction of steel hulls, allowing vessels to use water instead of solid materials as ballast. The effects of the introduction of new species have in many areas of the world been devastating. Quantitative data show the rate of bio-invasions is continuing to increase at an alarming rate. As the volumes of seaborne trade continue overall to increase, the problem may not yet have reached its peak.
However, the Ballast Water Management Convention, adopted in 2004, aims to prevent the spread of harmful aquatic organisms from one region to another, by establishing standards and procedures for the management and control of ships' ballast water and sediments
Under the Convention, all ships in international traffic are required to manage their ballast water and sediments to a certain standard, according to a ship-specific ballast water management plan. All ships will also have to carry a ballast water record book and an international ballast water management certificate. The ballast water management standards will be phased in over a period of time. As an intermediate solution, ships should exchange ballast water mid-ocean. However, eventually most ships will need to install an on-board ballast water treatment system.
A number of guidelines have been developed to facilitate the implementation of the Convention.
The Convention will require all ships to implement a Ballast Water and Sediments Management Plan. All ships will have to carry a Ballast Water Record Book and will be required to carry out ballast water management procedures to a given standard. Existing ships will be required to do the same, but after a phase-in period.
Parties to the Convention are given the option to take additional measures which are subject to criteria set out in the Convention and to IMO guidelines
The Convention is divided into Articles; and an Annex which includes technical standards and requirements in the Regulations for the control and management of ships' ballast water and sediments.
Under Article 2 General Obligations Parties undertake to give full and complete effect to the provisions of the Convention and the Annex in order to prevent, minimize and ultimately eliminate the transfer of harmful aquatic organisms and pathogens through the control and management of ships' ballast water and sediments.
Parties are given the right to take, individually or jointly with other Parties, more stringent measures with respect to the prevention, reduction or elimination of the transfer of harmful aquatic organisms and pathogens through the control and management of ships' ballast water and sediments, consistent with international law. Parties should ensure that ballast water management practices do not cause greater harm than they prevent to their environment, human health, property or resources, or those of other States.
To see the entire text of the IMOR International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments, follow this link.
To read the background and context of the convention, follow this link.
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