Cyprus has ratified the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments 2004 (the BWM Convention).(1) The law ratifying and implementing the convention took effect on its publication in the Official Gazette on May 4 2018. The BWM Convention entered into force on September 8 2017 and covers more than three-quarters of the world's merchant shipping tonnage. Its objective is to prevent, reduce and control pollution of the marine environment –especially the spread of harmful aquatic organisms from one region to another – and the consequential damage to health and natural resources. To meet this objective, the convention establishes standards and procedures for the management and control of ships' ballast water and sediments.
The ratification law's key provisions include:
- a prohibition on applicable vessels from discharging ballast water except in accordance with the terms of the BWM Convention;
- a requirement to:
- have a ballast water management plan (Regulation B-1 of the convention) and a ballast water record book (Regulation B-2); and
- undertake ballast water management procedures in accordance with the convention. The exchange of ballast water may be carried out only as provided for in the convention (Regulation B-4).
The law applies to:
- all ships under the Cyprus flag; and
- foreign ships calling at ports or sailing in Cyprus's waters or exclusive economic zone, apart from those specified in Article 3(2) of the convention.
The Deputy Ministry of Shipping (DMS) and the port authorities must ensure that ports and terminals in Cyprus where the cleaning or repair of ballast tanks takes place are equipped with adequate facilities for the reception of sediments, considering International Maritime Organisation guidelines. These reception facilities must:
- operate without undue delay to ships; and
- provide for the safe disposal of sediments so as not to impair or damage the environment, human health or the property or resources of Cyprus or other countries.
Generally, the DMS is responsible for controlling and monitoring compliance with the BWM Convention and appoints surveyors for this purpose. It is responsible for the inspection of ships under the Cyprus flag to determine whether they comply with the convention and for:
- the issuance of International Ballast Water Management Certificates;
- the approval of the certificate issued following an inspection;
- the approval of ballast water management plans; and
- the application of relevant exemptions to Cyprus-flagged ships.
In the event of an infringement of the law or the BWM Convention by a Cyprus-flagged ship, or if a breach is identified following an inspection of a Cyprus-flagged ship, the DMS may detain the ship until the matter is remedied. In the event of infringement by foreign ships, the DMS may:
- prohibit them from entering any port in Cyprus;
- expel or bar them from Cyprus's waters or ports; or
- detain them at a specific place until the breach is remedied.
A violation of the law, any regulations issued under it or the BWM Convention is a criminal offence punishable by up to four years' imprisonment, a fine of up to €50,000 or both. The captain of an infringing vessel may also be subject to an administrative fine of up to €30,000 secured by a first-priority lien on the vessel.
For further information on this topic please contact Yiota Georgiou at Elias Neocleous & Co LLC by telephone (+357 25 110 100) or email ([email protected]). The Elias Neocleous & Co LLC website can be accessed at www.neo.law.
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