Following the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, the IMO initiated negotiations to consider the possibilities of developing an internationally binding instrument to address the transfer of harmful aquatic organisms and pathogens in ships’ ballast water. From 1999 onwards, the Ballast Water Working Group, established by the MEPC in 1994, focused on the preparation of a free-standing Convention on control and management of ships’ ballast water and sediments.
The introduction of harmful aquatic organisms and pathogens to new environments had been identified as one of the four greatest threats to the world’s oceans (the other three being land sourced marine pollution, overexploitation of living marine resources and destruction of habitat) and in 2002, the World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg, called for action at all levels to accelerate the development of measures to address aquatic invasive species in ballast water.
Proper control and management of ships’ ballast water became a major environmental challenge for IMO and the global shipping industry. At its eighty-ninth session in November 2002, the Council approved the convening of the Diplomatic Conference in early 2004. The decision of the Council was endorsed by the twenty-third session of the Assembly in December 2003 and the International Conference on Ballast Water Management for Ships’ was held at IMO’s Headquarters in London from 9 to 13 February 2004. The Conference adopted the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments (the Ballast Water Management Convention), together with four conference resolutions. For a summary of the content of this new instrument please click here BWM Convention.
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