The Joint HELCOM/OSPAR Task Group on Ballast Water Management Convention Exemptions (HELCOM/OSPAR TG BALLAST) is working on developing a common framework on the specific issue of exemptions for the Ballast Water Management Convention (2004), both for the Baltic Sea (managed by HELCOM) and the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR) regions. The Task Group held its first meeting in October 2013, and have continued doing so regularly according to their terms of reference. 

Joint efforts in the Baltic Sea and in the North-East Atlantic by HELCOM and OSPAR, respectively, are needed as the two organizations share many member countries and because there is a high level of interdependency between the two regions in terms of traffic links. In addition to the member countries, the shipping industry is also showing great interest in the process.

A Baltic Sea starting point for this joint work is a guideline document to exemptions, adopted as part of the 2010 HELCOM Ministerial Meeting in Moscow, as well as the output of the HELCOM ALIENS 2 and HELCOM ALIENS 3 projects. One of the terms of reference of this Task Group was the jointly development of the "HELCOM-OSPAR Joint Harmonized Procedure for BWMC A-4 exemptions", to ensure that exemptions are granted in a constant manner that prevents damage to the environment, human health, property or resources, once the BWMC enters into force. The Harmonised Procedure was adopted at the HELCOM Ministerial Meeting (3 October 2013) and OSPAR Commission meeting (24-28 June 2013).

In July 2014, a revised version of the on line decision support tool on alien species introductions via ballast water was released. This improved version of the tool will allow administrations and ship owners to quickly identify routes that may qualify for exemptions to the application of ballast water management for ships (regulation B-3) and those that are unlikely to.