We are living in a time where long haul transportation plays a crucial part of our lives. Movement of goods from one part of the world to another is something we take for granted. About 90% of the world’s trade is carried by sea.
When a vessel trade cargo from one place to another, ballast water is typically pumped onboard the ships for stability purposes. The ballast water, seemingly a harmless by-product of trade, actually contains thousands of aquatic or marine microbes, plants and animals, picked up in one eco-system, only to be carried across the globe and discharged into a vulnerable ecosystem somewhere else, thereby presenting a direct threat to the environment.
Untreated ballast water released at a ship’s destination potentially introduce a new invasive marine species. Hundreds of such invasions have already taken place, sometimes with devastating consequences for local ecosystems. One example of such is the spreading of the Zebra mussel from European waters to the Great Lakes, as discovered in the mid 1980s, where local communities and businesses alike witnessed the direct economic damage from clogging of drinking water intake pipes, factory and power plant equipment, forcing frequent shut downs and increased maintenance cost.
To combat the problem of invasive species from ballast water, the IMO adopted the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments in 2004. On 8 September 2017, the convention entered into force.
Today all ships sailing round the world are required to have an approved system for Ballast Water Treatment.