The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has confirmed that 47 countries have now ratified the Ballast Water Management (BWM) Convention – more than the 30 required – but these countries' combined fleets comprise 34.35 percent of global tonnage, below the level required for the Convention to enter into force.
The IMO recently undertook an exercise to determine whether the Convention should enter into force, based on verified tonnage figures as at December 31, 2015.
Ballast water may be taken onboard by ships for stability. However, it can contain thousands of aquatic or marine microbes, plants, and animals, which are then carried across the globe. Untreated ballast water released at the ship's destination can potentially introduce new invasive marine species. Hundreds of such invasions have already taken place, sometimes with devastating consequences for the local ecosystem.
The BWM Convention, adopted in 2004, is intended to introduce global regulations to control the transfer of potentially invasive species. Once the treaty enters into force, ballast water will need to be treated before it is released into a new location, so that any microorganisms or small marine species are killed off.
In providing the progress update, IMO Secretary General Kitack Lim urged those countries that have yet to ratify the Convention to do so, to establish a date for the Convention to become effective and to allow time to make any necessary amendments to the Convention.
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