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The International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments (BWM Convention) entered into force on 8 September 2017.

Untreated ballast water can transport and introduce invasive alien species (IAS), which can negatively impact local ecosystems, biodiversity and livelihoods. 

8 September 2017: The International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments (BWM Convention) has entered into force. The Convention addresses aquatic invasive alien species (IAS) by requiring all ships to implement a ballast water management plan, among other actions.

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) and UN Development Programme (UNDP) identify the transfer of aquatic organisms and pathogens between marine ecosystems through ships’ ballast water and sediments as one of the greatest threats to coastal and marine environments around the world. This challenge, also addressed under the Sustainable Development Goal on life on land (SDG 15), which calls for controlling or eradicating IAS by 2020, is also one of the biggest environmental challenges faced by the global shipping industry.

The Convention aims to prevent the spread of aquatic IAS by establishing standards for the management and control of ships’ ballast waters and sediments.

The BWM Convention aims to prevent the spread of invasive aquatic species from one region to another by establishing standards for the management and control of ships’ ballast waters and sediments. Under the Convention, all ships engaged in international traffic must manage their ballast water and sediments to a specific standard, following a ship-specific ballast water management plan. Ships are also required to carry a ballast water record book and an international ballast water management certificate.

GEF CEO and Chairperson, Naoko Ishii, highlighted the role of the GloBallast programme, a long-term partnership between GEF, the International Maritime Organization, UN Development Programme (UNDP) and other partners, in facilitating the entry into force of the BWM Convention. She welcomed the Convention’s entry into force, saying it will be “instrumental in battling invasive aquatic species and will lead to healthier marine ecosystems.”

UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner described the Convention’s entry into force as “an important milestone for the environment.” Steiner emphasized, “implementation of the Convention will reduce the substantial economic damage, lost livelihoods and human health impacts invasive species can cause.”

GEF, IMO and UNDP will continue to work to reduce aquatic IAS and ship fouling through the recently approved GloFouling project, which will assist developing countries to reduce the transfer of IAS on ship hulls and other marine infrastructure. [GEF Press Release] [UNDP Press Release] [BWM Convention Website] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on GloBallast Conclusion] [SDG Knowledge Story on BWM Ratification]

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