Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission


Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission

HELCOM Aliens 3

Harmonized ballast water management in the Baltic Sea

ALIENS 3 Sampling on 14 August 2013


In 2010, the 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 was adopted in the HELCOM Moscow Ministerial Meeting. The aim of this Guidance was to support transparent and consistent risk assessment for regional ship voyages and to allow a unified Baltic Sea system on exemptions for applying ballast water management (BWM) requirements in accordance with the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ship’s Ballast Water and Sediments, 2004 (BWMC) Regulation A-4. Subsequently, the Guidance was tested through the “Pilot risk assessments of alien species transfer on intra-Baltic ship voyages” project (HELCOM ALIENS project) in 2010-2011. The results of the project proved the need of data on alien species and environmental conditions in ports, as a pre-requisite for carrying out a reliable risk assessment. In order to fill in those gaps, a second project on alien species (HELCOM ALIENS 2 project) was launched. It concluded in December 2012 providing a proposal for a regionally harmonized method for granting exemptions from BW treatment for marine traffic in the Baltic Sea.

At a broader geographical level, HELCOM and OSPAR Commissions have been working together through the Joint HELCOM/OSPAR Task Group on Ballast Water Management Convention Exemptions established in August-September 2012 involving Contracting Parties of both Conventions. One of the terms of reference of this Task Group was the jointly development of the “Joint HELCOM/OSPAR Harmonised Procedure for the Contracting Parties of OSPAR and HELCOM on the granting of exemptions under the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments, Regulation A-4“, 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).


The overall aim of HELCOM ALIENS 3 project (“Test, further development and operationalization of the HELCOM biological survey protocols and A-4 risk assessments in the Baltic Sea”) was to provide the HELCOM Contracting Parties with the possibility to test the regionally harmonized A4 process before the entry into force of the BWMC.

For that purpose the project tested, further developed and operationalized the harmonized system for granting exemptions (according to Regulation A-4) to any requirements to apply regulation B-3 (Ballast Water Management for Ships) or C-1 (Additional Measures to those on Section B of the Convention) of the BWMC in intra-Baltic traffic, developed within the HELCOM ALIENS 2 project.

The project also supported the work of the HELCOM-OSPAR Task Group for Ballast Water Management Convention Exemptions (HELCOM-OSPAR TG BALLAST), which further developed and adapted the outcome of the HELCOM ALIENS 2 project for the combined North Sea-Baltic region.


  • Pilot port surveys (summer –autumn 2013): a number of ports were selected to carry out surveys, based on the frequency of the operated routes within the Baltic Sea, trying to cover a broad variety of size, uses and habitats.
  • The decision support tool: developed within HELCOM ALIENS 2 together with the linked port survey database was tested and developed to an operational regional system. Different solutions for hosting and maintenance of the decision support tool and the linked port survey database were considered.
  • The HELCOM risk assessment models: to be used within the decision support tool were fine-tuned.
  • The list for target species: was further developed and the criteria for their selection tested.
  • Support to the HELCOM-OSPAR TG BALLAST work: on the terms of reference established for the Group.

Parallel activities

There has been a fruitful cooperation between the Barcelona Convention, the OSPAR Commission and HELCOM on ballast water management to avoid the introduction of non-indigenous species between their ports. The work developed is reflected in the following voluntary Guidance which have an interim character due to the fact that they will no longer apply when a ship is in a position to apply the D-2 Standard of the BWMC, or the Convention comes into force and a ship has to apply the D-2 Standard:

  • General Guidance on the Voluntary Interim Application of the D1 Ballast Water Exchange Standard in the North-East Atlantic and the Baltic Sea (applicable from 1 April 2008).
  • General Guidance on the Voluntary Interim Application of the D1 Ballast Water Exchange Standard by vessels leaving the Baltic Sea and transiting through the North-East Atlantic to other destinations (applicable from 1 January 2010).
  • General Guidance on the Voluntary Interim Application of the D1 Ballast Water Exchange Standard by Vessels operating between the Mediterranean Sea and the North East Atlantic and/or the Baltic Sea (applicable from 1 October 2012).

Key Outcomes

  • ​​​Drafting of the Joint Harmonized A-4 Procedure document on behalf of the HELCOM Secretariat; 
  • A revised joint decision support tool on alien species introductions via ballast water: initially created within HELCOM ALIENS 2 project, the decision support tool and the integrated port survey database with target species lists was tested and developed to an operational regional system to be administered by HELCOM and OSPAR Secretariats. The tool, released on July 2014 comprises:
    • a database on observations of alien species and physical features in ports,
    • a list of target alien species,
    • a list of all marine alien species observed in port surveys in the region, and 
    • an agreed risk assessment model.
  • The revised tool​, developed with funding through the HELCOM ALIENS 2 and 3 and BALSAM projects by the HELCOM Secretariat and Germany (BSH/Brockmann consult) 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; 
  • Port surveys conducted in Gothenburg (Sweden), Kokkola (Finland), Hamina/Kotka (Finland) and Sköldvik (Finland) trying to cover a broad variety of size, uses and habitats, in order to further develop the port sampling protocol included in the Joint Harmonized A‐4 Procedure;
  • A short guide​ informing on alien species and measures taken by HELCOM Contracting Parties to prevent them from entering the Baltic Sea via Ballast Water is now available;