The Ballast Water Management Convention (BMW convention) has been adopted by the IMO (International Maritime Organization) in 2004 under the condition that the convention becomes enforced after 12 months if at least 30 countries, representing a combined total gross tonnage of more than 35% of the world’s merchant fleet, ratify it. As of the 18th of January, 2016, 47 countries representing a combined tonnage of 34.56% of the world’s merchant fleet have ratified the BMW convention. Therefore, there is a great hope that by 2017, BMW convention will be come into force. However, I think the full success of this convention largely depends on the following key issues:
BMW convention will only apply for “ships from flag states that have ratified, and ships entering jurisdictions of flag states.” China, India, the USA, Singapore and the UK contribute the largest shares to international seaborne trade. However, none of these states have ratified the BMW convention yet. If the big players like, the USA, the UK, India, and China are less willing to ratify the convention then BWM convention might not be fully successful to minimize ballast water problem at a larger scale. Therefore, continued international negotiations and co-operations are crucial.
Furthermore, this convention will only apply in territorial seas (as it says, ships entering jurisdictions of a ratifying States) but not in high seas. It means that the ships are still allowed to exchange ballast water on the high seas without any treatment or preventative measures. From the points of view of sustainable natural resource management, conservation and socio-economics, this is an emergent issue as there is no reason a jurisdictional line will be respected by ecological processes, especially when physical boundaries from high to territorial seas are lacking. In addition to the remaining risk of invasive species moving from more open ocean high seas into generally more coastal territorial waters, if the ecosystem of a particular high seas area is altered due to invasive species, in future that might affect the stock of economically important highly migratory fish species like tuna, pomfret and others. So, in the near future IMO might consider extending the jurisdiction of BMW convention on high seas as well.
Other challenges for the successful implementation of the BMW convention could be to integrate and train up the key stakeholders (specially a large number of ship crews and port staffs) as there is an issue of lack of awareness or lack of incentives to concern oneself about the ecological and economic consequences of ballast water among the various stakeholders across the globe. Therefore, innovation on eco-friendly and cost effective technologies to treat the ballast water is very much warranted not only to ensure the high compliance rate but also to minimize the enforcement costs. Finally, I would like to say, we all need to work together to accomplish the success of BMW convention which will in turn provide an effective pathway towards sustainable “blue economy”.
Image credit: http://www.imo.org/en/OurWork/Environment/Biofouling/Pages/default.aspx