In recent years, marine environments across the world have become increasingly damaged by cross-contamination.
Various invasive marine species, as well as a number of viruses, plants, organisms and planktons, have been known to cause substantial harm to native species and environments, and much of this havoc came about as a result of the transfer and discharge of ballast water.
While relatively minor damage was caused in the early days of commercial shipping, the dramatic rise in the number of ocean-going vessels, not to mention their ever-increasing size, has led to a situation which some environmentalists have described as catastrophic. Something needed to be done, and that something is the IMO’s Ballast Water Management Convention, which becomes law in September 2017.
Maintaining effective levels of ballast water on board vessels is vital for the stability of ships, of course, and until a safe alternative to water can be adopted – an unlikely event in the near future – then our industry needs to make sure all discharges are as safe and environmentally healthy as possible. The new regulations will help to ensure this happens, and will make owners and operators more accountable than ever before.
Environmental disasters have occurred all over the world
There have been many environmental disasters over the years which have been caused by the discharge of ballast water. They include:
- The 1988 transference of the zebra mussel from the Caspian Sea to the Great Lakes in the USA, a development that is estimated to have cost at least $5 billion so far.
- The movement of mitten crabs from northern Asia to western Europe. These creatures cause major erosion to river banks and dykes, and they prey on local fish species, leading to a dramatic reduction in numbers.
- The North Pacific seastar, a starfish variety that reproduces rapidly, has caused several major problems after being transferred from its native region to the coastal waters of southern Australia. As well as causing an imbalance in the local eco-system, it’s also responsible for diminishing stocks of oysters and scallops.
Test often, test regularly and test meticulously
The impending regulations will require all owners and operators to adopt effective ballast water management plans. The regular use of an accurate ballast water testing kit is a must, in order to ensure compliance with the new laws. It’s hoped that, from September 2017, our oceans will become safer, healthier and cleaner, and that potential environmental disasters will become a thing of the past.