Pilot risk assessments of alien species transfer on intra-Baltic ship voyages (ALIENS) (2010-2011)
HELOM Baltic Sea Action Plan requires the Contracting Parties to ratify the Ballast Water Management Convention (BWMC) by 2013 at the latest. So far, only Sweden has ratified the Convention. According to their announcement, most of the other Contracting Parties have also started the ratification process. Once the Convention has entered into force, it will become a major legal instrument to reduce the risk of transfer of alien species to the Baltic Sea from other sea areas.
However, the BWMC has not been designed to serve small and shallow seas like the Baltic Sea, which may create some challenges for the HELCOM countries. One of the questions is how and if to manage ballast water on intra-Baltic voyages, taking into account that species are likely to spread within the Baltic Sea to proportionally wide areas on their own, without shipping acting as a vector, unless salinity, temperature or other factors limit their natural range of dispersal.
The HELCOM Contracting Parties have agreed that ballast water exchange is not a suitable management option to reduce the risk of alien species’ transfer within the Baltic Sea. Thus, once the BWMC enters into force, ships will be required to implement the remaining ballast water management options (ballast water treatment or discharge and disposal of ballast water and sediments to port reception facilities) unless an exemption has been granted following a risk assessment to assess whether a ship is on a voyage posing a high or low risk of spreading alien species.
HELCOM Guidance on how to distinguish between high and low risk – a risk of secondary spreading of alien species through ballast water and sediments – by ships engaged in intra-Baltic voyages adopted by the Ministerial Meeting on 20 May 2010 in Moscow, is a tool that can identify routes posing high risk. The Guidance has been developed to support transparent and consistent risk assessments for regional ship voyages and to allow a unified Baltic Sea system on exemptions from applying ballast water management in accordance with Ballast Water Management Convention Regulation A-4.
The Guidance, however, has not been tested yet on real cases, and there is a growing need to gain the knowledge among national administrations and provide best practices on how to conduct and/or evaluate and consult risk assessments as set in the Ballast Water Management Convention.
Most routes in the Baltic Sea, due to similar environmental conditions, can be expected to be sufficiently low risk to be exempted. The risk assessment and exemption procedure will require a lot of work both from shipowners and administrations.
Practical testing of the HELCOM Guidance on some selected ship routes connecting ports in different Baltic Sea countries would provide concrete examples and best practices for how risk assessments should be done, to be utilized in the work of national administrations dealing with BWMC.
Regulation A-3 of the Convention does not require treatment of ballast water if it is discharged in the same location as it was taken up, provided that it has not been mixed with other ballast water. As the Baltic Sea is one biogeographical region, one interpretation of the Convention could possibly be that no treatment of BW would be needed for intra-Baltic traffic. However, some intra-Baltic routes might still pose a risk. A pragmatic approach could be to have a definition of the “same location”, developed and agreed upon by all HELCOM Contracting Parties.
- To test HELCOM Guidance on how to distinguish between high and low risk of secondary spreading of alien species by ships on intra-Baltic voyages, by conducting pilot risk assessments for selected number of ship routes connecting ports in different Baltic Sea countries.
- To investigate implications of regulations A-3 (exceptions) and A-4 (exemptions) of the BWMC for intra-Baltic voyages.
1. The project will conduct pilot risk assessments (RA) for specific voyages on selected routes. If feasible, the project will also conduct pilot RA for specific voyages on selected routes between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. The project should take a holistic approach focusing on the HELCOM Guidance, taking into consideration as far as possible other proposed RA approaches (i.e. as proposed in OSPAR and the North Sea Ballast Water Opportunity Project) evaluating practicability and environmental aspects.
2. The project will select routes for conducting risk assessments. The selection will be based on availability of information on alien species, prevailing traffic pattern, and the “representativeness” of a route so the results could be used also for other, similar voyages.
3. The project will gather the necessary information on e.g. ship voyages to be tested, alien species present in donor port (and its vicinity) and recipient port as well as environmental conditions in these ports. The project will make use of readily available information (e.g. HELCOM list of alien species) as far as possible, but will also search for additional information.
4. The project will undertake a comprehensive review of regulations A-3 and A-4 of the BWMC and their implications for intra Baltic voyages, taking into account all practical, environmental, and legal aspects, in particular looking at the concept of “same location”.
5. The project will be implemented in close cooperation with national administrations/institutions dealing with BWMC.
6. The project will suggest possible improvements to the HELCOM Guidance, based on the results of the risk assessments conducted and the experience gained.
7. A project meeting will be organized in spring, and the results of the project will be presented at HELCOM MARITIME 10/2011.
The Correspondence Group on implementation of the Ballast Water Road Map, established under HELCOM MARITIME and led by Germany in cooperation with the Secretariat, will be involved in the project.
The final report of the project can be found here.
Prof. Erkki Leppäkoski (MeriEko)
Tel: +358 40 595 5488
Dr. Stephan Gollasch (GoConsult)
Grosse Brunnenstr. 61
Tel: +49 40 390 546 0
Prof. Matej David (University of Ljubljana)
Faculty of Maritime Studies and Transport
Pot pomorščakov 4
Tel.: +386 6767 306