Ballast water management (Editorial: 10th March 2011)

The International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments is close to gaining the ratified support necessary to bring it into force. The convention aims to eliminate the harmful spread of aquatic organisms and pathogens by managing the transfer and discharge of ballast water.

Our Club has published its latest Legal Briefing “New regulations for the control of ships’ ballast” to explain the impact of this convention on ship operators. The Legal Briefing also sets out the circumstances whereby the convention permits non-compliance and gives recommendations to owners on the preparations they should consider.

Any ship over 400 tons is potentially subject to this convention, which will require all ballast water to be subjected to mechanical, physical or chemical treatment before discharge.

The scheduled dates for implementation of ballast water controls begin with a January 2012 deadline for new buildings to incorporate the necessary ballast water management systems. The subsequent dates are 2014 and 2016, the latter being the deadline for fill implementation of ballast water treatment systems after an interim phase of managed ballast water exchange.

Documentation is required to evidence compliance in the form of a ballast water management plan, a dedicated record book and certification from ship's class.

Sanctions for non-compliance may include detention or exclusion from port or terminal entry. However, the convention permits countries to adopt more stringent individual measures for ballast water management if they wish.

In addition to the Legal Briefing, this website has collated other references and resources on preparing for the convention coming into force.

Although adopted at IMO in 2004 the convention is awaiting ratification by a minimum threshold of thirty countries representing 35 per cent of international merchant shipping. To date, 27 countries representing just over a quarter of world shipping have ratified the convention. The convention comes into force one year after the date it is fully ratified.

Staff Author