Finland has ratified the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments 2004 (the “Convention”) on 8 September 2016, bringing the ratifications of registered Member to 35.14% of the world's gross tonnage, surpassing the 35% requirement. The Convention was adopted in 2004 by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the United Nations specialized agency responsible for developing global standards for ship safety and security and for the protection of the marine environment and the atmosphere from any harmful impacts of shipping.
The Convention will enter into force on 8 September 2017. Under the Convention, all ships in international traffic are required to manage their ballast water and sediments to a certain standard, according to a ship-specific ballast water management plan. All ships will also have to carry a ballast water record book and an international ballast water management certificate. The ballast water management standards will be phased in over a period of time. As an intermediate solution, ships should exchange ballast water mid-ocean. However, eventually most ships will need to install an on-board ballast water treatment system.
A number of guidelines have been developed to facilitate the implementation of the Convention. Parties to the Convention are given the option to take additional measures which are subject to criteria set out in the Convention and to IMO guidelines
Under Article 2 Convention (General Obligations) Parties undertake to give full and complete effect to the provisions of the Convention and the Annex in order to prevent, minimize and ultimately eliminate the transfer of harmful aquatic organisms and pathogens through the control and management of ships' ballast water and sediments.
Parties are given the right to take, individually or jointly with other Parties, more stringent measures with respect to the prevention, reduction or elimination of the transfer of harmful aquatic organisms and pathogens through the control and management of ships' ballast water and sediments, consistent with international law. Parties should ensure that ballast water management practices do not cause greater harm than they prevent to their environment, human health, property or resources, or those of other States.
Ships are required to be surveyed and certified (Article 7 Survey and certification) and may be inspected by port State control officers (Article 9 Inspection of Ships) who can verify that the ship has a valid certificate; inspect the Ballast Water Record Book; and/or sample the ballast water. If there are concerns, then a detailed inspection may be carried out and “the Party carrying out the inspection shall take such steps as will ensure that the ship shall not discharge Ballast Water until it can do so without presenting a threat of harm to the environment, human health, property or resources.”
The United States of America is not a Party to the Convention and has its own Ballast Water Management requirements under both the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and US Coast Guard (USCG). For existing ships, the USCG requirements specify that a USCG type approved Ballast Water Management System must be installed by the next full dry docking. While there are some differences between the EPA and USCG requirements, the EPA requires existing ships to meet the same standard as the USCG, under the same schedule, and comply with the USCG requirements.