Ballast water management and control
Additional Publication Information
The problem of alien invasive species in the marine environment is one of the greatest threats to the world's oceans and a major problem for the ecological and economic well being of the planet. The main vector for the introduction of these species is through their transportation from their native environments in the ballast water of ships and their release into new environments on the discharge of the ballast water at the end of a ship's voyage. Once introduced into the new environments alien species often thrive and out--compete native species resulting in whole ecosystems being changed. Once introduced alien species are impossible to remove.
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea ( UNCLOS) and the Convention on Biological Diversity ( CBD) oblige parties to take steps to prevent the introduction of alien species which threaten significant and harmful changes to the marine environment, but they give no guidance as to how this is to be achieved. In the absence of an international solution, some States have introduced their own domestic legislation but this is clearly inadequate to address what is essentially an international problem.
As a consequence of Agenda 21 and the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, the IMO adopted a free -standing and binding international convention to deal with the problem of ballast water. The International Convention for the Control of Ship's Ballast Water and Sediments, 2004 ( Ballast Water Convention) is not a perfect instrument but it is a major advance on the current situation of diverse domestic legislation ~d voluntary Guidelines. Adherence should bring the international community one step closer to the eventual eradication of alien invasive species. It is not yet in force and all States , particularly Flag States , need to be encouraged to adopt it.