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New global treaty makes debut next year


A ship pumping ballast water into the sea

A ship pumping ballast water into the sea

Accession by Finland has triggered the entry of a key international measure for environmental protection aimed at stopping the spread of potentially invasive aquatic species in ships’ ballast water.

With the Finland’s accession, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), said the remaining conditions for enforcement have been met and therefore the Ballast Water and Sediments (BWM) Convention is scheduled to debut on September 8, 2017.

The International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments (BWM Convention), said the new treaty marks a landmark step towards halting the spread of invasive aquatic species, which can cause havoc for local ecosystems, affect biodiversity and lead to substantial economic losses.

Under the Convention’s terms, ships will be required to manage their ballast water to remove, render harmless, or avoid the uptake or discharge of aquatic organisms and pathogens within ballast water and sediments.

Secretary-General, IMO, Kitack Lim, said: “This is a truly significant milestone for the health of our planet. The spread of invasive species has been recognised 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.”

He added, “The entry into force of the Ballast Water Management Convention will not only minimise 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 accession brings the combined tonnage of contracting states to the treaty to 35.1441 per cent, with 52 contracting parties. The convention stipulates that it will enter into force 12 months after ratification by a minimum of 30 states, representing 35 per cent of world merchant shipping tonnage.

The BWM Convention was adopted in 2004, by the IMO, the United Nations (UN) specialised agency responsible for developing global standards for ship safety and security, and for the protection of the marine environment and the atmosphere from any harmful impacts of shipping.

The ballast water is routinely taken on by ships for stability and structural integrity. It can contain thousands of aquatic microbes, algae and animals, which are then carried across the world’s oceans and released into ecosystems where they are not native.

Untreated ballast water released at a ship’s destination could potentially introduce a new invasive aquatic species. Expanded ship trade and traffic volume over the last few decades has increased the likelihood of invasive species being released. Hundreds of invasions have already taken place, sometimes with devastating consequences for the local ecosystem.

According to IMO, The Ballast Water Management Convention will require all ships to carry a ballast water record book and an International Ballast Water Management Certificate. The ballast water performance standard will be phased over a period of time. Most ships will need to install an on-board system to treat ballast water and eliminate unwanted organisms. More than 60 type-approved systems are already available.

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