Accession by Finland has triggered the entry into force of the IMO Ballast Water Management Convention.
The Convention will enter into force on Sept. 8, 2017, marking 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 loss.
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.
"This is a truly significant milestone for the health of our planet," said IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim.
"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," said he.
He added, "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."
Finland's accession brings the combined tonnage of contracting states to the treaty to 35.1441 percent, 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 percent of world merchant shipping tonnage.
The Convention will require all ships in international trade to manage their ballast water and sediments to certain standards, according to a ship-specific ballast water management plan. All ships will also have to carry a ballast water record book and an International Ballast Water Management Certificate. The ballast water performance standard will be phased in 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.
"The entry into force is a very good step towards clarifying what ships have to deal with in the near and bit farther future," says specialist ballast water management consultant Jad Mouawad. "Many questions remain during the implementation phase: how the revised Type Approval guidelines will be integrated into the retrofit timeline, how ship owners should choose a ballast water treatment system strategically to ensure compliance with the U.S. Coast Guard requirements (that have not yet type approved a ballast water treatment system), what changes will the IMO do to the Convention text besides the timeline changes already agreed to.
"The immediate reaction to the anticipated ratification for us has been a sharp increase in requests for market and feasibility studies for shipowners. Simply put, shipowners are asking us which systems they should buy, how to lay an installation strategy based on their scheduled survey dates, dry docks and so on. I recommend all shipowners to do this homework before starting to buy systems."