• IMO Ballast Water Management Convention for ships enters into force 8 September 2017

  • After over a decade of collaborative preparations, the Baltic Sea region is well equipped for implementation

The International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments, originally signed in 2004, enters into force today 8 September 2017. The Baltic Sea coastal countries are well prepared for this major milestone, as they have cooperated on technical details of its regional implementation within HELCOM for over a decade.


Round goby. Photo: Žilvinas Pūtys

Ships' ballast water, routinely taken on by ships for stability and structural integrity, may carry alien species which are harmful to the marine ecosystems and biodiversity in many ways, especially in fragile marine areas such as the Baltic Sea. The subject of the Convention, safe management of ships' ballast water, has a major role in preventing this route of spreading non-indigenous species.

Based on latest HELCOM data, 14 new non-indigenous species have appeared in the Baltic Sea for the first time during 2011–2015, with over 130 introductions in total since the 19th century.

"The entry into force of the Ballast Water Management Convention is a major step for the whole world but naturally also for the Baltic Sea region. It will also put the results of our intensive regional preparations to a real test. However, I am confident that with all their expertise and the work done so far, the relevant HELCOM groups are well prepared to support to any relevant implementation issues emerging during the next years.” says Monika Stankiewicz, HELCOM Executive Secretary.

Wide collaborative efforts come to fruition

Immediately after signature of the Convention in 2004, following the pioneering work within the Baltic Sea scientific community and the international developments around the Convention at IMO, the HELCOM Maritime Working Group started substantial joint work in this field by establishing a dedicated Ballast Water Correspondence Group under the lead of Finland.

Since this start, the coastal countries of the Baltic Sea have co-operated within HELCOM, as well as together with other regional seas cooperation structures like OSPAR, on a number of specific issues around the foreseen implementation of the Ballast Water Convention in the Baltic Sea region.

Even if the core work is carried out at the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), this kind of supportive region-specific cooperation on implementation is foreseen by the Ballast Water Convention itself (Article 13.3).

Examples of concrete output from the preparatory regional cooperation within HELCOM include a comprehensive harmonised implementation procedure on exemptions (Reg. A-4 of the Convention) with a related risk assessment website, released in a renewed form this autumn; a series of regional recommendations concerning ballast water exchange (BWM.2/Circ.14, BWM.2/Circ.22, and BWM.2/Circ.39); as well as keeping up-to-date on new invasions by a dedicated regional indicator.

Since 2012, the core technical work has been carried out within a dedicated intergovernmental task group – the Joint HELCOM-OSPAR Task Group on Ballast Water Management Convention Exemptions (HELCOM/OSPAR TG BALLAST) – formed by the participating countries and representatives of the shipping industry and NGOs.

Future work to tackle remaining issues

Over the years, several HELCOM projects have supported this intergovernmental dialogue with substantial input, starting from the GEF funded Baltic Sea regional project (2003–2007). The latest of these is the project “COMPLETE” which will further develop the regional implementation during 2017–2019, with HELCOM involvement and co-funding from the EU Interreg programme.

As one of the latest developments, a new roadmap for regional implementation of the outstanding issues on Ballast Water Convention in the Baltic Sea was adopted in December 2016 by the HELCOM Heads of Delegation (HOD), replacing the completed HELCOM roadmap from 2007.

The upcoming meetings of the HELCOM Maritime working group (10–12 October 2017, St.Petersburg) and HELCOM/OSPAR TG BALLAST (16–17 November 2017, Helsinki) will provide opportunities to consider substantial issues related to the implementation of the Ballast Water Convention in the Baltic Sea region. This includes following up on the progress on ratifying the BWM Convention by the remaining coastal countries.

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Note for editors:

During the last decade shipping has steadily increased in the Baltic Sea, reflecting intensifying co-operation and economic prosperity around the region. At the same time, increasing maritime transportation threatens fragile ecosystems and the livelihoods of the many people who depend on the sea.

HELCOM Maritime Working Group identifies and promotes actions to limit sea-based pollution and finds ways for safer navigation. Established in 1975, the group also deals with the harmonized implementation and enforcement of international shipping regulations.

HELCOM is an intergovernmental organization made up of the nine Baltic Sea coastal countries and the European Union. Founded in 1974, its primary aims as a governing body are to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution, as well as to ensure safe maritime navigation. The official name of HELCOM is the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission; it is the governing body of the Helsinki Convention.


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For more information, please contact:

Hermanni Backer
Professional Secretary for Maritime, Response and Fish groups
Tel:  +358 46 8509199
Skype: helcom02
E-mail: hermanni.backer(at)helcom.fi