What Is Ballast Water Management or BWM Convention?

International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments

Ballast Water Management “means mechanical, physical, chemical, and biological processes, either singularly or in combination, to remove, render harmless, or avoid the uptake or discharge of Harmful Aquatic Organisms and Pathogens within Ballast Water and Sediments.

Adoption:  13 February 2004
Entry into force:  12 months after ratification by 30 States, representing 35 per cent of world merchant shipping tonnage.

The Convention 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 sediments.

Shipping moves over 80% of the world’s commodities and transfers approximately three to five billion tonnes of ballast water internationally every year. Ballast water is essential to the safe and efficient operation of shipping, but it also poses a serious ecological, economic and health threat through the transfer of invasive aquatic species inadvertently carried in it.

Ballast water contains a variety of organisms including bacteria and viruses and the adult and larval stages of the many marine and coastal plants and animals. While the vast majority of such organisms will not survive to the point when the ballast is discharged, some may survive and thrive in their new environment. These ‘non-native species’, if they become established, can have a serious ecological, economic and public health impact on the receiving environment.

All ships of 400 GT and above will be required to have on board an approved ship-specific Ballast Water Management Plan and a Ballast Water Record Book to comply with the BWM Convention.
The Ballast Water Management Plan is required to:
  • assist the ship in complying with international regulations to minimise the risk of the transfer of harmful aquatic organisms and pathogens in ships’ ballast water and associated sediments
  • identify the ship’s Ballast Water Management Officer
  • consider ship safety elements, provide information to PSC officers on the ship’s ballast handling system and confirm that ballast water management can be effectively planned.
  • include training on BWM operational practices
  • be written in the working language of the ship. If this language is not English, French or Spanish a translation into one of these languages must be included.
The BWM ( ballast water management) Convention is applicable to:

The BWM Convention will apply to all ships including submersibles, floating craft, floating platforms, FSUs and FPSOs,

It will not apply to:
  • ships not designed to carry ballast water
  • ships not operating in international waters
  • warships, naval auxiliary ships or other ships owned or operated by a state
  • ships only on non-commercial service, or
  • ships with permanent ballast water in sealed tanks.

Once the BWM Convention has entered into force all ships of 400 gross tonnes (GT ) and above will be required to have on board an approved Ballast Water Management Plan and a Ballast Water Record Book, and to be surveyed and issued with an International Ballast Water Management Certificate. For ships whose flag administration has not ratified the BWM Convention a certificate or statement of compliance can be issued.


What led to development of BWM Convention?

The inadvertent transfer of harmful aquatic organisms and pathogens in a vessel’s ballast water has been determined to have caused a significant adverse impact to many of the world’s coastal regions. The international maritime community, under the auspices of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has developed several documents, including the “International Convention for the Control and Management of Ship’s Ballast Water and Sediment, 2004,” (Ballast Water Management Convention), which are aimed at preventing the introduction of unwanted aquatic organisms and pathogens through the discharge of ballast water and sediments.

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About the author

Amit Sharma

Graduated from M.E.R.I. Mumbai (Mumbai University), After a brief sailing founded this website with the idea to bring the maritime education online which must be free and available for all at all times and to find basic solutions that are of extreme importance to a seafarer by our innovative ideas.