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The IMO’s Ballast Water Management Convention to Enter into Force in September 2017

Monday, 17 October 2016
Following the ratification of the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ship’s Ballast Water and Sediments (BMW Convention) by the Republic of Finland on 8 September 2016, this IMO treaty is scheduled to enter into force on 8 September 2017. Accession by Finland brought the combined tonnage of the Contracting States to the BMW Convention to 35.1441%, with 52 contracting Parties. In accordance with Article 18 (1) of the BMW Convention, it will come into force 12 months after ratification by 30 States, representing not less than 35 per cent of world merchant shipping tonnage.

The BMW Convention, adopted in 2004, aims to introduce global regulations to control the transfer of potentially invasive aquatic species and organisms into ship’s ballast water.* Once the BMW enters into force, balance water will need to be treated before it is released into a new location, so that any unwanted microorganisms or small marine species are killed off. IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim said: “The entry into force of the Ballast Water Management Convention will not only minimize the risk of invasions by alien species via ballast water, it will also provide a global level playing field for international shipping, providing clear and robust standards for the management of ballast water on ships.

In practical terms, the BMW Convention requires:
- Each ship to have on board a Ballast Water Management Plan (Plan) complying with the requirements of the "Guidelines for Ballast Water Management and Development of Ballast water Management Plans” (IMO Resolution MEPC.127(53)). The Plan shall be specific to each ship and shall provide detailed procedures and descriptions of all the actions to be taken in order to implement the BWM practices required by the Convention. The Plan should also identify the officer in charge of ballast water (Regulation B-1);
- Each ship to maintain on board a Ballast Water Record describing all ballast water operations carried out. (Regulation B-2);
-Most ships to install an on-board system to manage ballast water and eliminate alien organisms. The ballast water performance standard will be phased in over a period of time. (Regulation B-3);
-Ballast water exchange to be done on the basis of specific procedures regarding the place where the ballast water exchange will be undertaken. (Regulation B-4);
-All ships to remove and dispose Sediments from spaces designated to carry Ballast Water in accordance with the provisions of the ship‘s Ballast Water Management plan (Regulation B-5).

This major milestone coincides with the upcoming completion of the GloBallast Partnerships Project conducted by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Since 2000, the GloBallast Partnerships Project has been assisting developing countries to reduce the risk of aquatic bio-invasions through building the necessary capacity to implement the Convention. To date, more than 70 countries have been directly benefitted from the Project.

GEF CEO and Chairperson, Naoko Ishii, said: “The fact that the BWM Convention will enter into force is the result of a long-term productive partnership between GEF, IMO, UNDP and a suite of partners. Its implementation will be instrumental in battling invasive aquatic species, and will lead to healthier marine ecosystems that positively impact both economic opportunity and the livelihoods of millions of people across the globe. Ultimately, the entry into force of the BWM Convention is simply good news for the global environment.

*IMO has been addressing the problem of invasive species in ships’ ballast water since the 1980s, when Member States experiencing particular problems brought their concerns to the attention of IMO's Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC). Guidelines to address the issue were adopted in 1991 and IMO then worked to develop the Ballast Water Management Convention, which was adopted in 2004.IMO has worked extensively with the development of guidelines for the uniform implementation of the Convention and to address concerns of various stakeholders, such as with regards to the availability of ballast water management systems and their type approval and testing.

Sources:  International Maritime Organization (IMO), Global Environmental Facility (GEF)
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