Earlier this month Finland ratified the ballast water convention and there are now 52 countries in the world doing so. More acutely, as Finland part of the world’s tonnage is 0,14 % - adding it up with the rest of the countries having ratified the convention, it means that countries with 35,1441 % of the world’s tonnage are now behind the convention. Finland was the “last drop” to make the convention a reality.
The International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments (BWM Convention) was adopted by IMO in 2004 and has been well under way. Its entering into force must be accommodated 12 months after “ratification by a minimum of 30 States, representing 35% of world merchant shipping tonnage.” While the convention has been ratified by an excess number of states for some time now, their collected tonnage out of the world tonnage has simply not been enough. But now it is. Thus by the 8th of September 2017 the BWM convention enters into force.
What is ballast water?
Ballast water is sea water taken on by a vessel to stabilize the ship. It is routinely done by all types and sizes of vessels all over the world. Such water carries thousands of aquatic microbes, animals and algae alike. In International trade the ballast water can be carried for long distances before being let out. There is no screening or management necessary by law.
The problem with ballast water is that it is dumped with all of the aquatic content and potentially invasive species into other ecosystems. While some ecosystems cope, others do not.
“The spread of invasive species has been recognized as one of the greatest threats to the ecological and the economic well-being of the planet. These species are causing enormous damage to biodiversity and the valuable natural riches of the earth upon which we depend. Invasive species also cause direct and indirect health effects and the damage to the environment is often irreversible,” says IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim. “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.”
The ballast water convention will require ships in international trade to adhere to standards and a ballast management plan. The most efficient way to deal with the aquatic life in the ballast water will be to treat the water, thereby eliminating the organisms.
While the convention and its entering into force is new – there already exists many types of approved systems that can help deal with this problem.