Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission

A new era for HELCOM cooperation on ballast water

​​​​​Fifth HELCOM country – Finland – ratified last week the Ballast Water Management Convention for shipsThis fulfilled the world-wide criteria​ for entry into force in 2017 of the global treaty to help prevent the spread of invasive speciesThis is a significant milestone in the work against invasive aquatic species to the Baltic Sea, which can damage marine ecosystems, affect biodiversity and lead to economic loss​A likely ballast water introduction, fishhook waterflea (Cercopagis pengoi), has spread in the Baltic Sea since 1990s. It is classified by IUCN among the 100 worst invasive species of the world. Photo: Dr. Igor Grigorovich, University of Windsor, Canada​The regional work of HELCOM on ships management enters a new era as the fifth country of the nine Baltic coastal states, Finland, informed of the ratification of the International for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments on 8 September 2016.  The subject of this Convention, safe management of ships’ ballast water, has a major role in preventing the spread of non-indigenous, potentially harmful species, especially in fragile marine areas such as the Baltic Sea. The Convention was originally signed in 2004. The accession by Finland has global importance as it triggers the entry into force of the Ballast Water Management Convention on a global scale. The Convention stipulates that it will enter into force 12 months after the ratification by a minimum of 30 States, representing 35% of world merchant shipping gross tonnage. The Finnish ratification fulfilled the remaining tonnage criteria. The Convention will thus enter into force globally on 8 September 2017. 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. “As the maritime transport increases in the Baltic Sea this means that the risk of arrivals of non-native species also grows. In an area so susceptible for environmental damage it is thus highly welcome that the Convention on ballast water will finally enter into force,” says Monika Stankiewicz, HELCOM Executive Secretary. “Over 120 non-native aquatic species have been recorded in the Baltic Sea to date, and a large share of these have established themselves on a more or less permanent basis. HELCOM has actively and strenuously worked on ballast water issues so it is heart-warming that the global turning point has been sparked from our region,” she continues.  Following the pioneering work within the Baltic Sea scientific community and the international developments around the Convention at IMO, the HELCOM Maritime Working started substantial joint work in 2004 by establishing a dedicated Ballast Water Correspondence Group under the lead of Finland. Several HELCOM projects, starting from the GEF funded Baltic Sea regional project (2003-2007), have supported the intergovernmental dialogue with substantial input. This kind of region-specific cooperation on implementation, supporting the global work at IMO, is enabled by the Ballast Water Convention (Article 13.3). Since 2004, the coastal countries of the Baltic Sea have co-operated within HELCOM, and together with other regional seas cooperation structures like OSPAR, on a number of specific issues around the foreseen implementation of the Ballast Water Convention. Examples of concrete output from this decade on preparatory cooperation include a detailed (Reg. A-4 of the Convention) and a , a series of regional recommendations concerning ballast water exchange (,
and ) as well as keeping up-to date on .  During its last on 6-8 September 2016, the HELCOM Maritime group drafted a new roadmap for regional implementation of the outstanding issues on Ballast Convention in the Baltic Sea. This new draft roadmap is intended to replace the earlier HELCOM roadmap from 2007 which has been largely accomplished as of today. Read more:8 September 2016: Global treaty to halt invasive aquatic species to enter into force in 2017 8 September 2016, Ministry of Transport and Communications of Finland: ​​​Finland ratifies International Convention for the Management of Ships’ Ballast Water on Alien Species and Ballast water management in the Baltic Sea * * * Note for editorsDuring 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 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.  The Joint HELCOM-OSPAR Task Group on Ballast Water Management Convention Exemptions (HELCOM/OSPAR TG BALLAST)—formed by the participating countries, shipping industry and NGOs—has since 2012 been a successful joint forum for intergovernmental dialogue on Ballast water issues in Northern European Seas. 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. * * * For more information, please contact:Hermanni BackerProfessional Secretary for Maritime, Response and Fish groupsHELCOMTel:  +358 46 8509199Skype: helcom02E-mail: hermanni.backer(at) Johanna LaurilaInformation SecretaryHELCOMTel: +358 40 523 8988Skype: helcom70E-mail: johanna.laurila(at)

Fifth HELCOM country, Finland, has ratified the Ballast Water Management Convention for ships. The global treaty will enter into force next year – a significant milestone in the work against invasive aquatic species.