Ballast Water Management Convention: requirements and impact

Bart van Lee

Ever since there are steel-hulled vessels, water is being used as ballast to stabilize vessels at sea. Ballast water is pumped into the vessel to maintain safe operating conditions throughout a voyage. This reduces stress on the hull, provides transverse stability, improves propulsion and maneuverability, compensates for weight changes in various cargo load levels and due to fuel and water consumption.


Even though this seems innocent and is essential for safe and efficient modern shipping operations, it may pose serious ecological, economic and health problems due to the multitude of marine species carried in ships’ ballast water. The transferred species may survive to establish a reproductive population in the host environment, becoming invasive, out-competing native species and multiplying into pest proportions. The spread of invasive species is now recognized as one of the greatest threats to the ecological and the economic well-being of the planet. Time to take action..


Taking action was not that simple. It took 14 years of complex negotiations between IMO Member States to adopt (by consensus) the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments (BWM Convention) at a Diplomatic Conference held at IMO Headquarters in London on February 13th 2004. One of the conditions before it can come into effect is that 30 countries representing a combined total gross tonnage of more than 35% of the world’s merchant fleet have ratified. Due to the accession of Finland on September 8 2016, the total number of contracting states to the treaty has reached 52, which represents 35.1441% of the global fleet by tonnage. This means that the convention will definitely enter into force on September 8, 2017.


During the 70th session of the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 70), there was a lot to discuss. One of the topics was whether the implementation date between 2017 and 2022 will be extended or not. Read more in our update.


Once the Ballast Water Management Convention officially will enter into force, all ships of 400 GRT and above will be required to have on board:


  • Ships specific approved Ballast Water Management Plan approved by the administration
  • Ballast water record book
  • Approved Ballast Water Treatment System
  • International Ballast Water Management certificate

Impact of the IMO ballast water management convention

It is expected that there will be huge retrofit demand on tens of thousands of ships when the IMO Ballast Water Convention will come into effect. Around 40,000 to 50,000 ships probably need to be retro-fitted to an approved Ballast Water Treatment System. The implementation of the BWM Convention will be a major challenge to the shipping world, including shipyards, equipment manufacturers and ship owners. The UK P&I Club already warned its members not to delay in ensuring they comply with the new strict ballast water management controls coming into force.


This regulation shows that the trends in the shipping market are sustainable development and environmental friendly operations. Another example of regulations supporting sustainability is the Vessel General Permit, which is for vessels sailing in American waters.


When you are going into dry dock to retrofit the Ballast Water Treatment System, you might want to make your vessel completely proof for all sustainability regulations. The Supreme Ventus® and Supreme Athmos® are environmental friendly solutions of Lagersmit that guarantees zero-emission to make your vessel completely compliant with the Vessel General Permit. Trying to be a good friend and better for our (future) customers and nature.

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