Brimming with potential disaster as the wait for national regulations continues
For a country with as fragile an environment as the Maldives, the slightest imbalance in the ecosystem could spell disaster. As anyone in the industry can attest, ballast water discharge is a quickfire road for the introduction of nonindigenous marine species that could wreak havoc on any local biosphere.
The effects of invasive aquatic species have proved to be devastating, observed in many areas of the world. Thus, the Ballast Water Management (BWM) convention was adopted in 2004 by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) with the aim to prevent the passage of harmful organisms from one region of the world to another through ballast water. The IMO established clever sets of standards and procedures for the management and control of ships’ ballast water and sediments.
The BWM convention was entered into force on 8 September 2017 and, to date, has been ratified by 82 countries, the Maldives being among them. According to the Convention, all ships sailing internationally are required to manage their ballast water and sediments to a certain standard, in accordance with a set of ship-specific ballast water management plans. All ships are also required to carry a ballast water record book and an international ballast water management certificate.
Treaty Amendments to the BWM convention were entered into force on 13 October 2019. These amendments formalise the implementation schedule for ships to ensure that they are meeting the D-2 standard in the management of their ballast water. It also sets out the requirements for the Code for Approval of Ballast Water Management Systems.
Global Standards for Ballast Water Management
Under the D-2 standard, ships are required to ensure that discharged ballast water meets the following criteria:
- less than 10 viable organisms per cubic metre which are greater than or equal to 50 micrometres in minimum dimension;
- less than 10 viable organisms per millilitre which are between 10 micrometres and 50 micrometres in minimum dimension;
- less than 1 colony-forming unit (CFU) per 100 millilitres of Toxicogenic Vibrio cholerae;
- less than 250 cfu per 100 millilitres of Escherichia coli; and
- less than 100 cfu per 100 millilitres of Intestinal Enterococci
These are aimed at ensuring that invasive organisms are not released into new regions and will help ensure that aquatic organisms and pathogens in ballast water are rendered harmless before release.
The Precipice of Ecological Disaster?
It should be noted, however, that the schedule for implementation of the D-2 standards is set to be phased in over time for individual ships till September 2024. With this in mind, and taking into consideration that all countries are not part of this convention, this still leaves the Maldives on the precipice of an ecological disaster. Without national-level regulations upon ships that traverse our waters that may not have their ballast water systems up to code, we cannot be certain when and where our ecology may be poisoned with an invasive species which could wreak havoc upon our natural ecosystems.
That is not to say that there had not been any effort in, at least, the thought of national regulations. In 2019, IMO hosted a regional workshop on the implementation of Ballast Water Management in the Maldives. The workshop included representatives from four different countries; Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. Attendees were trained in the compliance monitoring and enforcement of IMO’s BWM Convention. The workshop included training on conducting a relevant risk assessment for implementing and enforcing the BWM Convention – with a focus on ship targeting for port State control and exemptions under a key regulation (regulation A-4) of the BWM Convention. It also focused on identifying organisms and microbes in ballast water, as well as the monitoring of port marine life where ballast water may be released
However, it should be noted that no legal regulations have come to fruition concerning Ballast Water Management till the present day.