The IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) has concluded its 67th session by addressing implementation issues as its ballast water management convention nears entry into force.

The International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments, 2004 (the BWM Convention), addresses the problem of aquatic organisms and pathogens being released into non-native environments after being transported around the world in ships’ ballast water.

Such organisms may survive and out-compete native species, becoming invasive and causing a great deal of damage to the local ecosystem. The BWM Convention requires the treatment and management of ballast water in order to kill off such microorganisms or species.

The MEPC resolution on measures to be taken to facilitate entry into force of the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments, 2004 aims to address concerns that the testing system for approval of BWM systems needs to be sufficiently robust and consistent so that any systems approved will meet the standards set out in the BWM treaty.

Testing ballast water for pathogens and invasive species.

The resolution also agrees that owners who have already installed type-approved ballast water management systems prior to the application of the revised guidelines, should not be penalised and that port states should refrain from applying criminal sanctions or detaining the vessel, based on sampling during a trial period.

Commenting on the outcome of the meeting, the International Chamber of Shipping’s secretary general, Peter Hinchliffe, remarked, “We are very pleased that IMO Member States have fully acknowledged the shipping industry’s concerns by agreeing to start work immediately on a revision of the G8 type-approval guidelines to make the process for approving ballast water treatment equipment more robust. The adoption by IMO of new Port State Control guidelines reflecting a fair and pragmatic approach to inspection is also an important additional step."

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