Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Australia Ratifies Ballast Water Convention

Vessel Owners Need to Upgrade Systems or Face Stiff Penalties
Shipping News Feature
AUSTRALIA – The Australian government has decided to ratify the International Ballast Water Convention in a worthwhile attempt to protect the country’s marine environment, Great Barrier Reef, and A$2.8 billion fisheries and aquaculture industries from invasive species. The convention, an important global initiative involving over fifty countries aimed at protecting marine industries and environments, will introduce internationally consistent rules for the use of ships’ ballast water which apply to voyages between domestic ports.

Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce, spoke of how the International Convention phases out risky ballast water exchange, fosters new and more effective ballast water treatment technologies and will help protect the Great Barrier Reef. He said:

“The ratification of the International Convention means that, for most ships, ballast water cannot be exchanged within 200 nautical miles (approximately 370 kilometres) of the Great Barrier Reef, as opposed to 12 nautical miles (approximately 22 km) at the moment, which will continue to protect this unique ecosystem from the potential biosecurity threats.

“The shipping industry will also be required to adopt new, more effective discharge standards in the form of ballast water treatment systems on their vessels within the first few years of the Convention being in force.

“Although Australia has regulated the use of ballast water on international vessels arriving in our waters since 2001, there is no nationally consistent system for domestic voyages. Implementation of the Convention in Australia will put these requirements in place to ensure marine pests already established in some parts of Australia are not able to spread to other Australian ports.

“Each year, around 200 million tonnes of ship’s ballast water is discharged into Australian ports. Ballast water is a serious threat to Australia’s biosecurity because plants and animals that live in the ocean are also picked up from the point of departure, and could devastate our marine environments, fisheries and aquaculture industries when they are released into Australian waters.”

There are severe penalties for those who fail to comply. A ship operator may be fined up to $360,000 for not meeting with the ballast water requirements. The Convention will come into force for Australia on September 8, 2017, the same day that the Convention comes into force internationally. Shipping Australia, one of the industry bodies that assisted in developing the Convention domestically, welcomed the ratification. Shipping Australia's Chief Executive Officer, Rod Nairn said:

“The international shipping industry is willing to bear the high cost of installing compliant ballast water treatment systems in order to remove the risk of transferring marine pests through ballast water. We do expect that this reduced risk will be recognised by the Government by a reduction in international vessel arrival fees for biosecurity compliance.

“This is another responsible action by international shipping to reduce the impact of shipping on the environment, and is consistent with the industry’s support for the IMO’s programme to reduce fuel sulphur limits and CO2 emissions from ships.

“Shipping is the most environmentally efficient means of long haul freight movement and we aim to keep it that way. It is essential that Australia maintains alignment with international norms so that ships can comply, as there are no boundary fences in the ocean.”