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Ballast water regulations

There have been several major ecological disasters in recent years which were caused by the discharging of ballast water tanks. Bacteria, viruses, invasive plants and creatures can have a devastating effect on local eco-systems after being brought to the area from another region.

The International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments is due to come into effect in September 2017, although there is some debate about the possibility of a delay. The Convention places strict regulations on the discharge of ballast water, and there will be hefty punishments for vessels and organisations which don’t follow the rules.

Your obligations under the BWMC

Vessels under the Convention have to implement and maintain a Ballast Water Management Plan which records and monitors the discharge of ballast water throughout the year. Sampling points and systems will need to be in place, and larger vessels need to carry a record book detailing information about the uptake and discharge of all ballast waters.

Be sure to carry your certification

If your documentation meets the required standard, you will be issued with a certificate that shows your compliance with the ballast water regulations. One of the keys to remaining within the rules will be regular testing of ballast water, via an effective and accurate testing kit.

Regulation D-1 of the Convention stipulates vessels should exchange ballast water with an efficiency of 95% volumetric exchange. Regulation D-2 dictates the need for fewer than ten viable organisms per cubic metre of water; these organisms can include the likes of toxicogenic vibro cholerae and intestinal enterococci. Regular, reliable testing is an absolute must.

Avoiding the mistakes of the past

The introduction of more complex and more demanding ballast water regulations will go a long way towards avoiding a repeat of environmental disasters that occurred in years gone by. They include:

  • The introduction of Asian kelp into waters around New Zealand and many European countries
  • The transference of colonies of European green crabs into waters around Australia, South Africa and South America
  • The movement via ballast water tanks of the North Pacific seastar from Japanese waters to those around the Antipodes
  • The arrival of vibro cholera in Peru, thought to have been transferred via ballast water from Bangladesh

The ballast water regulations have become a must-have

Given the continuing dependence on global shipping routes, there has long been a need to regulate the exchange of ballast water. The introduction of the Convention will highlight an increasing need for accurate testing, for regular monitoring and for reliable record-keeping.

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