Ballast Water Control and Management Regulations

Water is commonly used as ballast for vessels that range from smaller sailboats to large tankers, cruise ships and other vessels. In both larger and smaller vessels, ballasts using water are designed to improve the stability of the vessel. Furthermore, the amount of water ballast can be adjusted as needed based on the weight of the vessel and the need for buoyancy and stability. Increasing water ballast generally requires the vessel to take on water from the area where it is located at the time, and decreasing water ballast discharges water from the vessel into the environment to decrease buoyancy. There are ballast water control and management regulations in place in many areas of the world that are designed to minimize the environmental impact associated with this process.

The Potential Issues There are a number of environmental issues that are related to the use of water ballast. Water that is taken into a vessel in one location may contain a number of biological elements that are native to that area, and these can include everything from microorganisms and pathogens to vegetation and animals. These biological elements are picked up by the vessel, transported to another area and discharged into a unique and foreign environment. The introduction of these non-native biological elements can be destructive in a number of ways. It can affect fragile ecosystems, spread pollution and illness and more. Ballast water control and management regulations are in place to minimize the impact of these potential issues related to water ballast.

Unique Regulations Around the Globe It is important to note that the regulations regarding ballast water vary from country to country. When navigating into unfamiliar waters, it is imperative to explore the local regulations in greater detail. Even regulations between neighboring countries like Canada, the United States and Mexico can vary significantly in certain areas.

Common Regulations Regarding Ballast Water While the regulations around the globe regarding ballast water may vary, many of the underlying principles regarding the regulations may be very similar. This is due in large part to the fact that the regulations largely are designed with the same environmental protection purposes in mind. Common regulations regarding ballast water relate to avoiding taking on water that is in known environmental protection areas or known polluted areas. For example, a marine sanctuary may be a protected environment while an area with visible algae growth may be a contaminated area. Water generally should not be taken on for ballast purposes close to sewage areas, dredging areas and other related areas where contamination or pollution may be more likely. In addition, it may be advised or regulated that ballast tanks be cleaned on a regular basis, and the amount of water discharged close to the coast may be regulated.

These are just a few of the common ballast water management regulations that may be in place in many coastal waters around the globe. It is important for anyone who is navigating a vessel to become familiar with ballast water regulations before entering a new area by sea.