Ballast Water Management Convention Vessel Ballast Water Management Convention Vessel

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Ballast Water Management Convention ratified

The Ballast Water Management (BWM) Convention was recently ratified and will enter into force on 8 September 2017.

In response to the threat of the introduction and spread on non-native species through ballast water, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) adopted the “International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments” (the Ballast Water Management (BWM) Convention).

BWM Convention Requirements

Ships are required to have on board and implement an approved Ballast Water Management Plan.

Ships must maintain a Ballast Water Record Book to record when ballast water is taken on board, circulated or treated for Ballast Water Management purposes and discharged into the sea. It should also record accidental or other exceptional discharges of ballast water.

The BWM Convention includes two performance standards for the discharge of ballast water: D1 and D2.

The D1 standard concerns ballast water exchange, which must be undertaken within open ocean areas, >200nm from land and in seas >200m deep.

The D2 standard covers approved ballast water treatment systems.


The requirements of the BWM Convention will come into force at different times, depending on a ship’s date of construction and IOPP certificate renewal survey.

All new build ships must meet the D2 (treatment) standard after entry into force (8 September 2017).

For existing ships, the BWM Convention requires that either the D1 (exchange) or D2 (treatment) standard is met after entry into force (8 September 2017). However, as ballast water exchange (D1) is not considered an ideal method of ballast water management, the BWM Convention requires compliance with D2 (treatment) upon a ship’s first International Oil Pollution Prevention (IOPP) Certificate renewal survey after 8 September, 2017.

The Convention allows for certain vessels meeting specific conditions to be exempt from the BWM standards. However, gaining such an exemption is expected to be a high risk process.

Roles within the BWM Convention

Administrator - the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) is responsible for implementing the BWM Convention within the UK, through a national Ballast Water Management Strategy. 

Ship Operators/Owners - ship operators/owners are responsible for ensuring vessels are compliant with the BWM Convention. Predominantly, this will involve the installation of an approved ballast water treatment system on-board vessels.

Port and Harbour Authorities - The BWM Convention does not place any specific legal obligations on port and harbour authorities in relation to ballast water treatment. However, there are certain measures ports could choose to put in place in order in support to the implementation of the BWM Convention and to ensure the protection of the local environment. These include:

  • Providing onshore or barge based reception facilities for cleaning or storing ballast water - the Convention allows for the use of ‘Other Methods’ of ballast water management provided they ensure the same level of protection as detailed in Regulations D1 (exchange) and D2 (treatment). Any ‘Other Method’ proposed must be approved by the MEPC Committee of the IMO;
  • Implementing Ballast Water Management (BWM) Plans - BWM Plans can be used by ports or harbour authorities to:
         -Inform local agents and/or ships of areas and situations where uptake of ballast water should be encouraged or avoided;
         -Encourage the exchange of ballast water at sea (where it is safe to do so); and
         -Discourage unnecessary discharge of ballast water.
  • Assisting in the exemptions application process - the Convention does allow for exemptions to be issued. However, even though the UK Government have stated their intention to have an exemption system, the UK cannot guarantee that the final national legislation will include the ability to issue exemptions as the wider issues of the environment and biodiversity are likely to have to be taken into consideration.

In addition, sediment reception facilities may need to be provided for materials filtered out of ballast waters. These are most likely to be required in the vicinity of shipyards and dry docks.

Next Steps

The ratification of the BWM Convention allows industry and governments to start planning actions needed to comply with the Convention.

In particular, the UK Government is likely to set out their position in relation to the BWM Convention and will thus provide further clarity on the role of port and harbour authorities.

ABPmer will continue to monitor BWM Convention developments and will provide updates as and when new advice and guidance is issued.

July 2017 update to post: Read our summary of the latest update (Jul 2017) about Ballast Water Management Convention D-2 compliance here

Further information is available on the IMO website. [archived]