International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments adopted in 2004

The problem of harmful aquatic organisms in ballast water was first raised at IMO in 1988 and since then the MEPC, together with MSC and technical sub-committees, has been dealing with the issue. In order to help developing countries understand the problem and monitor the situation, IMO is implementing the GEF/UNDP/IMO Global Ballast Water Management Programme (GloBallast) and has provided technical support and expertise.

The problem of invasive species is largely due to the expanded trade and traffic volume over the last few decades. The effects in many areas of the world have been devastating. Quantitative data show the rate of bio-invasions is continuing to increase at an alarming rate, in many cases exponentially, and new areas are being invaded all the time. Volumes of seaborne trade continue overall to increase and the problem may not yet have reached its peak.

It is estimated that about three-10 billion tonnes of ballast water are transferred globally each year, potentially transferring from one location to another species of sealife that may prove ecologically harmful when released into a non-native environment.

A diplomatic conference from 9 to13 February 2004 adopted the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments, a new international convention to prevent the potentially devastating effects of the spread of harmful aquatic organisms carried by ships' ballast water.

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

At its 53rd session in July 2005, IMO's Marine environment Protection Committee (MEPC) adopted Guidelines for uniform implementation of the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments (BWM Convention). The guidelines adopted cover ballast water management equivalent compliance; approval of ballast water management systems; ballast water management and development of ballast water management plans; ballast water exchange and the Procedure for approval of ballast water management systems that make use of Active Substances.

MEPC 55 outcome

The Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) at its 55th session in October 2006 adopted the following guidelines, which are part of a series developed to assist in the implementation of the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments (BWM Convention) adopted in February 2004:

  ballast water exchange design and control standards (G11);
  design and construction to facilitate sediment control on ships (G12);
  designation of areas for ballast water exchange (G14);
  sediment reception facilities (G1); and
  ballast water reception facilities (G5).

Six other guidelines in the series have already been adopted during the last two sessions of the MEPC. The Sub-Committee on Bulk Liquids and Gases (BLG) was instructed to finalize guidelines on additional measures including emergency situations (G13).

Meanwhile, following consideration of the report of the second meeting of the GESAMP1 Ballast Water Working Group, which met in May 2006, the MEPC granted Basic Approval to two BWM systems proposed by Japan (the Special Pipe Ballast Water Management System (combined with Ozone treatment)) and Sweden (the EctoSys™ electrochemical system).

The Ballast Water Review Group met during the session to evaluate the latest information on ballast water treatment technologies and to determine whether appropriate technologies are available to achieve the ballast water performance standard required under regulation D-2 of the BWM Convention by 2009, the first date specified in the Convention under which new ships must comply with the performance standard. Based on the Review Group's conclusions, the MEPC noted that type-approved ballast water management systems would probably be available for installation prior to the first application date of the BWM Convention. However, the installation of type-approved ballast water management systems on ships already contracted to be built in or after 2009 may not be feasible or only possible at excessive cost and/or delivery delay.

The MEPC noted two options as suggested in the report of the Review Group: (1) to amend the first application date specified in the BWM Convention; or (2) to develop an exemption procedure for the first set of vessels.

In response to the above suggested options, the Chairman of the MEPC stated that the amendment procedure of the BWM Convention (described in Article 19) could not be applied until the Convention is in force. The Committee strongly urged all Member Governments to ratify the Convention at their earliest convenience so that either amendments or exemptions could be considered by the MEPC as soon as the conditions for entry into force are satisfied.

In order to address the concerns related to the availability of appropriate technologies, the Committee invited Administrations to develop recommendations to ensure that owners allow for technology to be included in ship design; invited Administrations with land-based testing facilities to supply information to the next session of the Committee (in July 2007) on the existence, utilization, capacity, accreditation and capabilities of their facilities; and invited Member States and observers to submit information on the estimated number of vessels in the first category to which the Convention may apply.

The MEPC noted that, to date, only six countries representing 0.62% of the world tonnage had become contracting States to the BWM Convention and once again urged Member States to ratify it at the earliest possible opportunity.

MEPC 54 outcome
The MEPC at its 54th session in March 2006 adopted the Guidelines for approval and oversight of prototype ballast water treatment technology programmes (G10), which are part of a series of guidelines developed to assist in the implementation of the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments (BWM Convention).

Eleven sets of guidelines are referred to in the Convention. Six have already been adopted and the remainder are being developed by the Sub-Committee on Bulk Liquids and Gases (BLG) with input from the Sub-Committee on Flag State Implementation (FSI).

The MEPC agreed to give basic approval to two ballast water management systems that make use of active substances, after consideration of the report of the first session of the GESAMP Ballast Water Working Group on Active Substances, which met in January 2006.

One system involves the use of a biocide for treatment of ballast water and the other involves the disinfection of ballast water by electrolysis with the generation of free chlorine, sodium hypochlorite and hydroxyl radicals and by electrochemical oxidation through the creation of ozone and hydrogen peroxide.

Approval of ballast water management systems
The dedicated Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP) -Ballast Water (GESAMP-BW) Technical Group on Active Substances has been established to review any proposals submitted for approval of Ballast Water Management systems that make use of Active Substances. This group would then report to the Organization on whether such a proposal presents unreasonable risk to the environment, human health, property or resources in accordance with the criteria specified in the Procedure for approval of ballast water management systems that make use of Active Substances.

The GESAMP-BW Technical Group will be financed through a fee scheme and paid for by the body or industry requesting approval of a ballast water management system using Active Substances.

Review of Convention
The Convention requires a review to be undertaken no later than three years before the first effective date for compliance set out in the Convention in order to determine whether appropriate technologies are available to achieve the standard. A Review Group established at the session reviewed 14 different ballast water management technologies and systems which could meet the ballast water performance standard in the Convention.

Regulation D-2 Ballast Water Performance Standard - states that 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 milliliter 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.

The indicator microbes, as a human health standard, include, but are not be limited to:

  a. Toxicogenic Vibrio cholerae (O1 and O139) with less than 1 colony forming unit (cfu) per 100 milliliters or less than 1 cfu per 1 gram (wet weight) zooplankton samples;
  b. Escherichia coli less than 250 cfu per 100 milliliters;
  c. Intestinal Enterococci less than 100 cfu per 100 milliliters.

The technologies and systems were reviewed against criteria of safety, environmental acceptability, practicability, cost effectiveness and biological effectiveness including an assessment of socio-economic effects, specifically in relation to the developmental needs of developing countries, particularly small island developing States.

It was agreed that the information collected to date on the systems and technologies currently being tested suggested they had the potential to meet the criteria and it was, therefore, anticipated that final approval of the systems, following testing and evaluation, could be achieved during 2008. The Review Group would meet again at MEPC 55.

BWM Convention status
At July 2005, eight countries (Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Finland, Maldives, The Netherlands, Spain and Syrian Arab Republic) have signed the Ballast Water Management Convention, subject to ratification. Maldives became the first Contracting Party after depositing its instrument of ratification on 22 June 2005. The Convention will enter into force 12 months after ratification by 30 States, representing 35 per cent of world merchant shipping tonnage. See Status of Conventions.

GloBallast Programme
In order to help developing countries understand the problem, monitor the situation and prepare for the convention, IMO is implementing the GEF/UNDP/IMO Global Ballast Water Management Programme (GloBallast: http://globallast.imo.org/ ) and has provided technical support and expertise. The programme is currently entering its second phase.


Background
Scientists first recognized the signs of an alien species introduction after a mass occurrence of the Asian phytoplankton algae Odontella (Biddulphia sinensis) in the North Sea in 1903.

But it was not until the 1970s that the scientific community began reviewing the problem in detail. In the late 1980s, Canada and Australia were among countries experiencing particular problems with unwanted species, and they brought their concerns to the attention of IMO's Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC).

In 1991 the MEPC adopted MEPC resolution 50(31) - Guidelines for Preventing the Introduction of Unwanted Organisms and Pathogens from Ships' Ballast Water and Sediment Discharges; while the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, recognized the issue as a major international concern.

In November 1993, the IMO Assembly adopted resolution A.774(18) - Guidelines for Preventing the Introduction of Unwanted Organisms and Pathogens from Ships' Ballast Water and Sediment Discharges, based on the Guidelines adopted in 1991. The resolution requested the MEPC and the MSC to keep the Guidelines under review with a view to developing internationally applicable, legally-binding provisions.

The 20th Assembly of IMO in November 1997 adopted resolution A.868(20) - Guidelines for the control and management of ships' ballast water to minimize the transfer of harmful aquatic organisms and pathogens.

The development of the draft mandatory instrument continued, until its adoption in February 2004.

Some examples of aquatic bio-invasions causing major impact are listed in the table, but there are hundreds of other serious invasions which have been recorded around the world:

Name
Native to
Introduced to
Impact
Cholera
Vibrio cholerae (various strains)
Various strains with broad ranges South America, Gulf of Mexico
and other areas
Some cholera epidemics appear to be directly associated with ballast water
Cladoceran Water Flea
Cercopagis pengoi
Black and Caspian Seas Baltic Sea Reproduces to form very large populations that dominate the zooplankton community and clog fishing nets and trawls, with associated economic impacts
Mitten Crab
Eiocheir sinensis
Northern Asia Western Europe, Baltic Sea
and West Coast North America
Undergoes mass migrations for reproductive purposes. Burrows into river banks and dykes causing erosion and siltation. Preys on native fish and invertebrate species, causing local extinctions during population outbreaks. Interferes with fishing activities
Toxic Algae(Red/Brown/ Green Tides)
Various species
Various species with broad ranges Several species have been
transferred to new areas in ships' ballast water
May form Harmful Algae Blooms. Depending on the species, can cause massive kills of marine life through oxygen depletion, release of toxins and/or mucus. Can foul beaches and impact on tourism and recreation. Some species may contaminate filter-feeding shellfish and cause fisheries to be closed. Consumption of contaminated shellfish by humans may cause severe illness and death
Round Goby
Neogobius melanostomus

Black, Asov and Caspian Seas

Baltic Sea and North America Highly adaptable and invasive. Increases in numbers and spreads quickly. Competes for food and habitat with native fishes including commercially important species, and preys on their eggs and young. Spawns multiple times per season and survives in poor water quality
North American Comb Jelly
Mnemiopsis leidyi
Eastern Seaboard of the Americas Black, Azov and Caspian Seas Reproduces rapidly (self fertilising hermaphrodite) under favourable conditions. Feeds excessively on zooplankton. Depletes zooplankton stocks; altering food web and ecosystem function. Contributed significantly to collapse of Black and Asov Sea fisheries in 1990s, with massive economic and social impact. Now threatens similar impact in Caspian Sea.
North Pacific Seastar
Asterias amurensis

Northern Pacific Southern Australia Reproduces in large numbers, reaching 'plague' proportions rapidly in invaded environments. Feeds on shellfish, including commercially valuable scallop, oyster and clam species
Zebra Mussel
Dreissena polymorpha
Eastern Europe (Black Sea) Introduced to:
Western and northern Europe, including Ireland and Baltic Sea;eastern half of
North America
Fouls all available hard surfaces in mass numbers. Displaces native aquatic life. Alters habitat, ecosystem and food web. Causes severe fouling problems on infrastructure and vessels. Blocks water intake pipes, sluices and irrigation ditches. Economic costs to USA alone of around US$750 million to $1 billion between 1989 and 2000
Asian Kelp
Undaria pinnatifida
Northern Asia Southern Australia,
New Zealand, West Coast
of the United States, Europe and Argentina
Grows and spreads rapidly, both vegetatively and through dispersal of spores. Displaces native algae and marine life. Alters habitat, ecosystem and food web. May affect commercial shellfish stocks through space competition and alteration of habitat
European Green Crab
Carcinus maenus
European Atlantic Coast Southern Australia, South Africa,
the United States and Japan
Highly adaptable and invasive. Resistant to predation due to hard shell. Competes with and displaces native crabs and becomes a dominant species in invaded areas. Consumes and depletes wide range of prey species. Alters inter-tidal rocky shore ecosystem

Reference: http://globallast.imo.org/poster4_english.pdf

Further information

Focus paper - Alien invaders - putting a stop to the ballast water hitch-hikers (1999)

Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC)

See also Global Ballast Water Management Programme