Ballast Water Management Update – July 2017

In 2004, the IMO hosted the International Conference on Ballast Water Management to address the problems associated with the introduction of non-native species into aquatic ecosystems when transported in the ballast water of oceangoing vessels.  The members adopted the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments. Before entering into force, the Convention required the ratification of thirty states, representing at least 35% of the world merchant shipping tonnage.  Twelve months after achieving ratification, the Convention becomes effective. Finland ratified the Convention on September 8, 2016, which brought the number of ratifying states to 52, with a combined merchant tonnage of 35.14%.  Accordingly, the Convention is to enter into force on September 8, 2017, and is expected to have a significant impact on vessels in international trade, requiring them to meet agreed minimum standards concerning biological and sediment materials contained in their ballast water.

Under the Convention, all ships trading internationally will be required to implement a Ballast Water Management Plan to meet the compliance requirements including the recently-approved IMO G9 Guidelines. Vessels over 400 gross tons must carry a ballast water record book that details the time, date and location of the filling and discharge of each tank, including the treatment applied to the ballast water.  According to a rather involved and frequently-changing timetable of implementation, vessels will be required to comply with the D1 or D2 standards.  Given the ongoing uncertainty with ballast water treatment issues, it is important and prudent for owners to develop contingency measures in their Ballast Water Management Plans to account for these uncertainties and to anticipate the differing infrastructure, equipment, and requirements at the various ports at which their vessels may call.

The D1 standard governs ballast water exchange: replacing the ballast water taken in from the last port with new sea water before arrival at the subsequent port.  The exchange must occur at least 200 nautical miles offshore and at a depth of 200 meters.  The D1 standard poses obvious difficulties for those vessels that travel within a limited geographical region and thus are rarely positioned a sufficient distance from shore and in waters of the requisite depth.

The more stringent D2 standard requires the installation and operation of an approved ballast water treatment system. The system must ensure that only negligible levels of viable biological materials remain in the vessel’s ballast water after treatment. New-build ships will be required to install and comply with the D2 standard from the Convention’s entry into force on September 8, 2017.  The implementation deadline for vessels currently in service, however, has recently been extended once again.  Existing ships will have to comply with the Convention’s D-2 standard by their next International Oil Pollution Prevention Certificate renewal (occurring every five years) following September 8, 2019.  This new extension will potentially push the compliance deadline for some existing vessels (depending on when the vessel must renew her IOPP certificate) until September 8, 2024.

For more information about these important changes in ballast water treatment requirements under the IMO Convention as well as the U.S. Coast Guard rules, and how to best navigate these upcoming compliance requirements, please do not hesitate to contact the authors George M. Chalos (e-mail:; George Gaitas (e-mail:; or Sean D. Kennedy (e-mail: