Monday, July 5, 2010

Shipping Representatives To Attack Alien Invaders

New Training Programme to Educate Against Unseen Enemy
Shipping News Feature

EASTERN EUROPE – Regular readers may remember the piece we published in March about the insidious menace of alien species being transported in the ballast water of ships of all types and then released thousands of miles away into ideal breeding conditions and causing ecological disasters. At that time the International Maritime Organization (IMO) outlined plans to nullify the menace which bulk tankers and container vessels alike inadvertently convey to foreign waters.

Now the IMO in cooperation with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) have launched an innovative Marine Biosafety Initiative, through the IMO’s GloBallast Partnerships Programme (GloBallast). A new training programme designed to educate on how to eliminate the problem of harmful organisms and pathogens transferred in ships’ ballast water will commence in the Russian Federation and Ukraine in early 2011 and then push on to other Eastern European states in which the EBRD operates.

The training programme is seen as a crucial tool in assisting the shipping and port sector in the selected countries in building technical and institutional capacity to meet the mandatory requirements of the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments (BWM Convention), adopted by IMO in 2004 to address the problems caused by alien species transported to non-native eco-systems in ships’ ballast water, with potentially devastating consequences.

Lack of capacity has been identified as the single most important barrier in addressing ballast water issues in developing countries and in meeting the Convention requirements. This could significantly impact on the competitiveness of both port and maritime sectors in the EBRD regions, as the ships and ports will have to meet the international requirements once the BWM Convention enters into force.

The IMO-EBRD Marine Biosafety Initiative builds on a series of capacity building tools developed by the GloBallast Partnership Programme, and will target a wide spectrum of private sector stakeholders in the selected group of countries. The modular, two-phased training programme will build the basic capacity among a wide range of stakeholders including private and public sectors in the first phase of training. The advanced training in the second phase will be more specialized and will focus on compliance and operational issues of ballast water management by targeting mainly the private sector including ports operators, the shipping industry and technology developers.

Building capacity to address ballast water management issues in the EBRD region will assist the EBRD member countries to put in place appropriate legal and policy frameworks that will drive the compliance process, and the same time prepare the ground for investment in related infrastructure such as sediment reception facilities, shipping fleet modernisation and technology development and commercialization. The capacity building activities will also provide the private sector with the right technical and institutional skills to meet the international requirements of the countries they trade with. Most importantly, this will lead to the protection of the regional shores, coastal economies and public health from the biosecurity risks related to the transfer of harmful organisms and pathogens by ships’ ballast water and sediments.

The IMO-EBRD Marine Biosafety Initiative represents a very innovative partnership model between a United Nations body such as IMO and a Multilateral Development Bank, in addressing a serious global environmental issue while catalyzing competiveness among the private sector players, such as shipping and ports, which heavily support the economic development of the EBRD region.