The Ballast Water Management Convention – Are you prepared for 8 September 2017?

Ballast water is essential for the safe and efficient running of a ship. Every year, vessels are responsible for the transfer of up to 10 billion tons of ballast water around the world. However, ballast water contains thousands of aquatic microbes, plants and animals (such as the cholera bacteria, fleas or algae) which can have a serious ecological, economic and public health impact.

What is the BWM Convention and when will it enter into force?
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) recognized the spread of invasive aquatic species from ballast water as one of the world’s greatest ecological and economic threats. In order to protect the fragile marine ecosystem, the IMO adopted the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments (the “BWM Convention”) in 2004. The BWM Convention was ratified on 8 September 2016 and will enter into force on 8 September 2017. An overview of the countries which ratified the BWM Convention can be found on the IMO website or here).

What is required?
The Ballast Water Management standards will be phased in over a period of time


As of 8 September 2017

The Convention requires, that as of 8 September 2017, all ships engaged in international voyages will be required:

  • To have a ship-specific Ballast Water Management Plan on board approved by the flag state;
  • To have a Ballast Water Record Book to record when ballast water is taken on board, circulated or treated for ballast water management purposes, or discharged into the sea;
  • To undergo an initial survey by a classification society, a flag administration or a certifying administration leading to an International Ballast Water Management Certificate;
  • To assign a competent officer to manage ballast water and to train officers and crew so that they can carry out their duties.

The Convention requires that all ballast water exchange must take place, whenever possible, in deep water, more than 200 nautical miles from the nearest land in water at least 200 meters in depth.

In addition, new ships built after 8 September 2017 should have a ballast water treatment system installed on delivery.


As of 8 September 2019
The IMO has recently decided to postpone the Regulation D-2 standard with two years until 8 September 2019, which means that the date by which all ships must have installed a ballast water treatment system has been extended from 2022 to 2024.

Existing vessels (vessels constructed prior to entry into force of the Convention), must comply with Regulation D-2 upon the next renewal of a vessel’s International Oil Pollution Prevention (IOPP) certificate.



Schematic overview


Date of compliance

New ships (keel laid on or after 8 September 2017)

Installation of ballast water treatment system upon delivery

Existing ships which completed its IOPP renewal survey between 08-09-2014 and 07-09-2017

Installation of ballast water treatment system at the first IOPP renewal survey on or after 08-09-2017

Existing ships other than above

Installation of ballast water treatment system at whichever occurs first of the following:

First IOPP renewal survey on or after 08-09-2019 or Second IOPP renewal survey on or after 08-09-2017

Existing ships not required to have an IOPP certificate

Installation of ballast water treatment system not later than 08-09-2024

To date, IMO approved 69 ballast water treatment systems and a list can be found  here.


The ballast water management requirements in the United States
The United States of America (USA) are not a State Party to the BWM Convention of the IMO. The US ballast water is regulated by two separate federal agencies; United States Coast Guard (USCG) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

A link for the BWM program of the USCG.
A link for the USA EPA Vessel General Permit.

Furthermore, the State of California has its own BWM standards for vessels over 300GT that are capable of carrying ballast water. California’s Interim Performance Standards for BWM can be read  here.

Insurance cover
Liabilities (including fines for inadvertently introducing untreated ballast into the environment) arising from the escape or discharge overboard through a “faulty” approved system of untreated ballast or other environmental liabilities related to ballast would fall within the scope of cover, subject always to the Policy Wording(s) and any terms and conditions of cover. Cover for other fines relating to a breach of BWM Convention requirements will be assessed on a discretionary basis.

For any queries on this topic, please do not hesitate to contact our Client Services Desk: