Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission

Ballast Water

A global threat to marine and freshwater biodiversity

Introductions of alien species is a serious global threat to marine and freshwater ecosystems. New species may completely alter the local communities, drive species to extinction as well as cause economic damage as nuisance species.

The Ballast Water Management Convention (BWMC) of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) was signed 2004 as a partial answer to counter this global threat. It introduces requirements regarding management of ships’ ballast water, such as using a system which kills the organisms transported with it.

The Convention entered into force on 8 September 2017. Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Lithuania, Russia and Sweden have ratified the IMO Convention of the Baltic Sea coastal countries. Other coastal countries are still in the process of ratifying.

The Baltic Dimension

The Baltic Sea is also prone to introductions and settlement of non-native species present in ships ballast water and its coastal countries have been active in working with the issue both within IMO and HELCOM. The countries cooperate within HELCOM to prepare for a harmonized implementation of the IMO BWMC in the Baltic Sea area.

Regional Baltic Sea measures in the field of Ballast water management negotiated within HELCOM include recommendations regarding ballast water exchange, selection of target species and exemptions based on risk assessments (BWMC regulation A-4).

The transport and introduction of alien species has been perceived as one of the primary threats to coastal ecosystems worldwide. The better management of ships’ ballast water will reduce the risk of such harmful organisms entering into sea areas.

Germany ratified the Convention in June 2013, following Russia and Denmark who acceded in March and September 2012, respectively, Sweden who ratified in 2009, and Finland in 2016. In 2018, Estonia and Lithuania acceded the Convention. A new roadmap for regional implementation of the outstanding issues on Ballast Convention in the Baltic Sea has been adopted (Annex 6 of the Outcome of HOD 51-2016). This new roadmap is to replace the earlier HELCOM roadmap from 2007 which has been largely accomplished as of today.