I got asked a few days ago if our ship carries ballast water and how do we handle it. First thing first, what is ballast water?
Ballast water is water taken onboard by ships for stability reasons and can contain plants, animals, aquatic and marine species which are then taken across the globe. Once this water is de-ballasted it can lead to devastating consequences to the local ecosystems due to invasive species.
When I had my interview for Environmental Officer one of the questions I was asked was related to why ballast water management is important. The first thing that came to my mind was the Black Sea Coast and how affected we were in the past decades because of invasive species. The number one that comes to my mind (cause I have some friends who enjoy it very much on their plate) was Rapana venosa a specie or large predatory snail who arrived to our coast as an invasive specie and led to the decline of our native edible bivalve fauna.
In other words, ballast water can be a big deal and needs special handling and attention.
The new BWM (Ballast Water Management) Convention which entered into force on 8 September 2017 requires ships to manage not just their ballast water but their sediments too, to specific standards. Ships are also required to 1) carry an electronic ballast record book; 2) carry an International Ballast Water Management Certificate.
In order to reach these new ballast water and sediments standards, new built ships must come equipped with an operational Ballast Water Management System or treatment plant while existing ships, like ours, are required to exchange their ballast water at mid-ocean and are only required to meet the ballast water treatment standards by the next renewal date of their IOPP certificate, after 8 September 2019. Until then, mid-ocean exchange is accepted.
To make things easier, we avoid as much as possible any ballast operation in territorial waters of any country we go to but I understand that this might be the case of passenger ships only. For cargo ship or tankers de-ballasting at port can represent a necessity.
Well enough about ballast, I hope I managed to put in simple words. Please use the comment section for any inputs or questions on this subject.
For now, I need to get some rest and I am leaving you with what was our view today in the private RCL Haiti port, Labadee. Enjoy!