30 Aug 2019: With all the attention that is given to the IMO 2020 sulphur cap for bunker fuels, it is easy to forget that there is another far-reaching IMO regulation that will become effective even before IMO 2020. Starting September 8 of this year, the IMO’s Ballast Water Management Convention (BWMC) will apply to all new and existing vessels worldwide. This regulation is meant to address the problem of invasive species in ships’ ballast water, which was brought to the attention of the IMO in the 1980s. To reduce stress on the hull, improve propulsion and maneuverability, modern steel-hulled vessels use water as ballast when they are not carrying cargo. Up to five billion tonnes of ballast water is transferred throughout the world annually. Ballast water contains a variety of organisms, such as marine and coastal plants and animals from different regions of the world. If taken up in one place and released in another, some organisms may survive and prosper in their new environment. The spread of these “non-native” or invasive species is now recognized as a significant threat to the ecological and the economic well-being of the planet and causes enormous damage to its biodiversity. There are serious direct and indirect health effects and the damage to the environment is often irreversible, according to the IMO.
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