The maritime sector is a very important economic pillar for the North Sea Region. As a result, the North Sea is one of the worlds most intensively shipped seas. Unfortunately, ships ballast water is the main source of invasive aquatic organisms. As the North Sea harbours have many important Natura 2000 areas the impact on biodiversity can be massive. Ships induced bio-invasions in the recent past has lead to the IMO Ballast Water
Management Convention (BWMC). The NSBWO project aimed to improve the North Sea environment and economy by facilitating the ratification of the BWMC (now ratified and will enter into force on 8 September 2017). The BWMC created a new market for innovative products. Ballast Water Opportunity aimed to support the North Sea Region industry to enter this market. It encouraged the ratification of the BWMC through reducing a major barrier: providing treatment and detection equipment.
Introduction of invasive species
Invasive species are one of the four greatest threats to marine and coastal ecosystems. When a newly introduced species encounters a favourable environment without natural enemies, its’ population can grow without limits, having serious consequences for marine ecosystems worldwide. Species introduction, through ballast water from sea-going ships, has become one of the most important sources of introduced species across the world.
Ballast Water Management
New regulations for management of ships’ ballast water are described in the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments (BWMC). This convention was adopted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in 2004. The BWMC is expected to come into force soon.
The BWMC aims to minimise the transfer of harmful organisms through ballast water from ships. Currently, ballast water can be managed in two ways: by ballast water exchange and by ballast water treatment. After 2016, the BWMC will require all ships to treat their ballast water according to the IMO D-2 Standard.
The success of the BWMC depends on its (regional) implementation. Several organizations in the North Sea have combined forces and are working together
to promote ratification and implementation of the BWM Convention. The North Sea region hosts several important institutes in science and water management technology, and thus has a tradition of developing joint marine environmental policies.
- The Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ), lead-partner: responsible for testing of ballast water treatment systems (in co-operation with BSH)
- The Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency of Germany (BSH): responsible for regulatory aspects while co-ordinating the contributions of the North Sea countries
- GoConsult in Germany: leading sampling for shipboard compliance tests with IMO standards and review of organism inspection tools including sample processing technologies
- World Maritime University (WMU), Sweden: co-ordinating development of future strategies
- CaTO Marine Ecosystems (CaTO), the Netherlands: co-operation between scientists and policy makers and coordinating the dissemination
The achievements of the NSBWO project range from encouraging discussions on ballast water issues by hosting expert conventions, sending submissions to agencies responsible for the execution of the BWM Convention, advancing knowledge on ballast water treatment methods and detection technologies to outreach activities:
- Europort Conference 2011: Ballast Water Management “Threat or Treat?” (190 participants)
- Numerous expert workshops
- Several policy papers that help shaping international BWM policies
- Target group-oriented activities to raise awareness and stimulate involvement and action, including information to the general public
- IMO-MEPC submissions
- Raising awareness of importance of organisms <10 μm
- Influence of organism concentratios at uptake on efficiency and efficacy of treatment
- Development of test for BWT systems