A new international convention to prevent the potentially devastating effects of the spread of
harmful aquatic organisms carried by ships' ballast water has been adopted by the International
Maritime Organization (IMO), the United Nations agency
responsible for the safety and security of
shipping and the prevention of marine pollution from ships. The instrument was adopted at an
international conference held from 9 to13 February 2004 at IMO's London Headquarters.
The Convention will
require all ships to implement a Ballast Water and Sediments Management Plan.
All ships will have to carry a Ballast Water Record Book and will be required to carry out ballast
water management procedures to a given standard. Existing ships will be required to do the same,
but after a phase-in period.
Parties to the Convention are given the option to take additional measures which are subject to
criteria set out in the Convention and to IMO guidelines yet to be developed.
IMO Secretary-General Mr. Efthimios E. Mitropoulos congratulated Member Governments on the
successful outcome of the conference.
"With the adoption of this Convention, the Organization has made global provisions to control and
manage ships' ballast water and thus prevent, minimize and ultimately eliminate the transfer of
harmful aquatic organisms and pathogens across the seas and oceans of the world. Your work over
the past week is a significant step towards controlling the introduction of invasive species via
ballast water and thus towards safeguarding the biodiversity of the oceans", Mr. Mitropoulos said.
"In no small measure, this is an achievement that becomes all the more important and significant
given the consensus decisions you were able to make on a subject of undeniable complexity.
Adopting international provisions, through consensus, when regulating an international industry like
shipping is of vital importance and you have done just that."
The Secretary-General emphasised that implementation of the Convention was now crucial.
"The work of IMO and its membership on the subject that brought us together this week will not
cease with the signing of the Final Act. The momentum must be sustained and our efforts should
turn immediately to the task of bringing the Convention into force as soon as possible," he said.
Mr. Mitropoulos commented that reaching agreement on issues such as the global standards for
ballast water exchange and treatment; the measures a party can take in addition to the global
standards, and IMO's involvement in such measures; ballast water exchange areas; and the entry
into force provisions "would not have been possible without the spirit of goodwill, understanding and
compromise on the part of the many delegates and observers from all over the world who have
contributed to attaining this goal."
"We often speak about the fabled 'IMO spirit of co-operation' and we have witnessed it many times
over this past week," he added.
Mr. Mitropoulos emphasized the importance of early, wide and effective implementation of the new
convention and pledged the support of the Organization's Integrated Technical Co operation
Programme to help those countries who needed assistance. The Conference adopted a resolution on
Promotion of technical co-operation and assistance.
The GEF/UNDP/IMO Global Ballast Water Management Programme (GloBallast) is already
providing technical support and expertise under a multi-million dollar project (GloBallast:
The Convention will enter into force 12 months after ratification by 30 States, representing 35 per
cent of world merchant shipping tonnage.
The Conference was attended by representatives of 74 States, one Associate Member of IMO; and
observers from two intergovernmental organizations and 18 non-governmental international
The International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and
Sediments is divided into Articles; and an Annex which includes technical standards and
requirements in the Regulations for the control and management of ships' ballast water and
The main features of the Convention are outlined below.
Entry into force
The Convention will enter into force 12 months after ratification by 30 States, representing 35 per
cent of world merchant shipping tonnage (Article 18 Entry into force).
Under Article 2 General Obligations Parties undertake to give full and complete effect to the
provisions of the Convention and the Annex in order to prevent, minimize and ultimately eliminate
the transfer of harmful aquatic organisms and pathogens through the control and management of
ships' ballast water and sediments.
Parties are given the right to take, individually or jointly with other Parties, more stringent measures
with respect to the prevention, reduction or elimination of the transfer of harmful aquatic organisms
and pathogens through the control and management of ships' ballast water and sediments,
consistent with international law. Parties should ensure that ballast water management practices do
not cause greater harm than they prevent to their environment, human health, property or
resources, or those of other States.
Under Article 5 Sediment Reception Facilities Parties undertake to ensure that ports and terminals
where cleaning or repair of ballast tanks occurs, have adequate reception facilities for the reception
Research and monitoring
Article 6 Scientific and Technical Research and Monitoring calls for Parties individually or jointly to
promote and facilitate scientific and technical research on ballast water management; and monitor
the effects of ballast water management in waters under their jurisdiction.
Survey, certification and inspection
Ships are required to be surveyed and certified (Article 7 Survey and certification) and may be
inspected by port State control officers (Article 9 Inspection of Ships) who can verify that the ship
has a valid certificate; inspect the Ballast Water Record Book; and/or sample the ballast water. If
there are concerns, then a detailed inspection may be carried out and "the Party carrying out the
inspection shall take such steps as will ensure that the ship shall not discharge Ballast Water until
it can do so without presenting a threat of harm to the environment, human health, property or
All possible efforts shall be made to avoid a ship being unduly detained or delayed (Article 12
Undue Delay to Ships).
Under Article 13 Technical Assistance, Co-operation and Regional Co-operation, Parties
undertake, directly or through the Organization and other international bodies, as appropriate, in
respect of the control and management of ships' ballast water and sediments, to provide support for
those Parties which request technical assistance to train personnel; to ensure the availability of
relevant technology, equipment and facilities; to initiate joint research and development
programmes; and to undertake other action aimed at the effective implementation of this
Convention and of guidance developed by the Organization related thereto.
Annex - Section A General Provisions
This includes definitions, application and exemptions. Under Regulation A-2 General Applicability:
"Except where expressly provided otherwise, the discharge of Ballast Water shall only be conducted
through Ballast Water Management, in accordance with the provisions of this Annex."
Annex - Section B Management and Control Requirements for Ships
Ships are required to have on board and implement a Ballast Water Management Plan approved by
the Administration (Regulation B-1). The Ballast Water Management Plan is specific to each ship
and includes a detailed description of the actions to be taken to implement the Ballast Water
Management requirements and supplemental Ballast Water Management practices.
Ships must have a Ballast Water Record Book (Regulation B-2) to record when ballast water is taken
on board; circulated or treated for Ballast Water Management purposes; and discharged into the
sea. It should also record when Ballast Water is discharged to a reception facility and accidental or
other exceptional discharges of Ballast Water
The specific requirements for ballast water management are contained in regulation B-3 Ballast
Water Management for Ships:
Ships constructed before 2009 with a ballast water capacity of between 1500 and 5000
cubic metres must conduct ballast water management that at least meets the ballast water
exchange standards or the ballast water performance standards until 2014, after which time
it shall at least meet the ballast water performance standard.
Ships constructed before 2009 with a ballast water capacity of less than 1500 or greater
than 5000 cubic metres must conduct ballast water management that at least meets the
ballast water exchange standards or the ballast water performance standards until 2016,
after which time it shall at least meet the ballast water performance standard.
Ships constructed in or after 2009 with a ballast water capacity of less than 5000 cubic
metres must conduct ballast water management that at least meets the ballast water
Ships constructed in or after 2009 but before 2012, with a ballast water capacity of 5000
cubic metres or more shall conduct ballast water management that at least meets the
ballast water performance standard.
Ships constructed in or after 2012, with a ballast water capacity of 5000 cubic metres or
more shall conduct ballast water management that at least meets the ballast water
Other methods of ballast water management may also be accepted as alternatives to the ballast
water exchange standard and ballast water performance standard, provided that such methods
ensure at least the same level of protection to the environment, human health, property or
resources, and are approved in principle by IMO's Marine Environment Protection Committee
Under Regulation B-4 Ballast Water Exchange, all ships using ballast water exchange should:
whenever possible, conduct ballast water exchange at least 200 nautical miles from the
nearest land and in water at least 200 metres in depth, taking into account Guidelines
developed by IMO;
in cases where the ship is unable to conduct ballast water exchange as above, this should
be as far from the nearest land as possible, and in all cases at least 50 nautical miles from
the nearest land and in water at least 200 metres in depth.
When these requirements cannot be met areas may be designated where ships can conduct ballast
water exchange. All ships shall remove and dispose of sediments from spaces designated to carry
ballast water in accordance with the provisions of the ships' ballast water management plan
Annex - Section C Additional measures
A Party, individually or jointly with other Parties, may impose on ships additional measures to
prevent, reduce, or eliminate the transfer of Harmful Aquatic Organisms and Pathogens through
ships' Ballast Water and Sediments.
In these cases, the Party or Parties should consult with adjoining or nearby States that may be
affected by such standards or requirements and should communicate their intention to establish
additional measure(s) to the Organization at least 6 months, except in emergency or epidemic
situations, prior to the projected date of implementation of the measure(s). When appropriate,
Parties will have to obtain the approval of IMO.
Annex - Section D Standards for Ballast Water Management
There is a ballast water exchange standard and a ballast water performance standard. Ballast water
exchange could be used to meet the performance standard:
Regulation D-1 Ballast Water Exchange Standard - Ships performing Ballast Water
exchange shall do so with an efficiency of 95 per cent volumetric exchange of
Ballast Water. For ships exchanging ballast water by the pumping-through method,
pumping through three times the volume of each ballast water tank shall be
considered to meet the standard described. Pumping through less than three times
the volume may be accepted provided the ship can demonstrate that at least 95
percent volumetric exchange is met.
Regulation D-2 Ballast Water Performance Standard - Ships conducting ballast
water management shall discharge less than 10 viable organisms per cubic metre
greater than or equal to 50 micrometres in minimum dimension and less than 10
viable organisms per milliliter less than 50 micrometres in minimum dimension and
greater than or equal to 10 micrometres in minimum dimension; and discharge of
the indicator microbes shall not exceed the specified concentrations.
The indicator microbes, as a human health standard, include, but are not be limited
a. Toxicogenic Vibrio cholerae (O1 and O139) with less than 1 colony forming unit
(cfu) per 100 milliliters or less than 1 cfu per 1 gram (wet weight) zooplankton
b. Escherichia coli less than 250 cfu per 100 milliliters;
c. Intestinal Enterococci less than 100 cfu per 100 milliliters.
Ballast Water Management systems must be approved by the Administration in accordance with
IMO Guidelines (Regulation D-3 Approval requirements for Ballast Water Management systems).
These include systems which make use of chemicals or biocides; make use of organisms or
biological mechanisms; or which alter the chemical or physical characteristics of the Ballast Water.
Regulation D-4 covers Prototype Ballast Water Treatment Technologies. It allows for ships
participating in a programme approved by the Administration to test and evaluate promising Ballast
Water treatment technologies to have a leeway of five years before having to comply with the
Review of standards
Under regulation D-5 Review of Standards by the Organization, IMO is required to review the
Ballast Water Performance Standard, taking into account a number of criteria including safety
considerations; environmental acceptability, i.e., not causing more or greater environmental
impacts than it solves; practicability, i.e., compatibility with ship design and operations; cost
effectiveness; and biological effectiveness in terms of removing, or otherwise rendering inactive
harmful aquatic organisms and pathogens in ballast water. The review should include a
determination of whether appropriate technologies are available to achieve the standard, an
assessment of the above mentioned criteria, and an assessment of the socio-economic effect(s)
specifically in relation to the developmental needs of developing countries, particularly small island
Annex- Section E Survey and Certification Requirements for Ballast Water Management
Gives requirements for initial renewal, annual, intermediate and renewal surveys and certification
requirements. Appendices give form of Ballast Water Management Certificate and Form of Ballast
Water Record Book.
Resolutions adopted by the Conference
The Conference also adopted four resolutions:
Conference resolution 1: Future work by the Organization pertaining to the International
Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments
Conference resolution 2: The use of decision-making tools when reviewing the standards
pursuant to Regulation D-5
Conference resolution 3: Promotion of technical co-operation and assistance
Conference resolution 4: Review of the Annex to the International Convention for the
Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments