Survey/Certificate regarding ballast water treatment:

BG Verkehr / Dienststelle Schiffssicherheit
Referat Maschine
Brandstwiete 1
20457 Hamburg

Holger Steinbock
Phone: +49 40 36137-217
Fax: +49 40 36137-204

Approval of ballast water treatment plants:

Bundesamt für Seeschifffahrt und Hydrographie
Sachgebiet S 41
Bernhard-Nocht-Straße 78
20359 Hamburg

Katrin Ewert
Phone: +49 40 31 90 74 10
Fax: +49 40 31 90 5000

Ballast water

Periods of grace for BWMS
FAQs on the implementation in practice in Germany
Information leaflet for maritime shipping
Map of the intra North Sea exchange area

General information on ballast water 

„Stowaways“ in ballast water dispel native marine organisms

Seagoing ships with little or no cargo on board usually fill seawater into special ballast tanks to lower their centre of gravity. Such ballasting improves the stability and thereby the safety of the ship. However, the ballast water also contains small aquatic organisms such as bacteria, algae and crustaceans. These „stowaways“ are crossing the oceans before being released in coastal waters all over the world where they may create hazards to the environment. Furthermore, they can cause economic damage e. g. by blocking cooling systems of industrial plants.

Ballast Water Management Convention to hinder the transport of invasive alien species

Alarmed by increasing problems through the transport of invasive alien species in the ballast water tanks of ships the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has worked for several years to develop a Ballast Water Management Convention. This International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments has been adopted by a Diplomatic Conference in 2004. Germany bindingly acceded the convention on 20th June 2013. On 8th September 2016 Finland acceded the Ballast Water Management Convention as 52nd State and thereby increased the tonnage to 35.14 %. Consequently, the convention entered into force on 8th September 2017.

bild ballastwasser

Two standards for ballast water management

The convention itself accepts two standards for the management of ballast water to minimise the risk of transporting unwanted alien species. These are the:

The D1 standard can be achieved by ballast water exchange but will be allowed only for a certain period of time after the entry into force of the Ballast Water Management Convention. The stricter D2 standard can however only be achieved by an approved ballast water treatment plant.

In addition, every ship is required to have a Ballast Water Management Plan and International Ballast Water Management Certificate (IBWM Certificate) as well as keep a Ballast Water Record Book.

By now, IMO has developed several guidelines and circulars regarding the implementation of the Ballast Water Management Convention. We compiled these for you under "Documents / Environmental protection".

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Regional cooperation to implement the Ballast Water Management Convention

Within the frameworks of HELCOM and OSPAR, the Baltic and North See littoral states have been working together closely for years for a coordinated and effective implementation of the Ballast Water Management Convention in the regions.

For example, HELCOM, with the assistance of experts of the member states, developed a “Guide for alien species and ballast water management in the Baltic Sea” to reduce the negative effects of alien species in the Baltic Sea area. The guide is directed in particular at ships that travel the Baltic Sea and offers an overview of the global and regional measures for ballast water management that apply to the Baltic Sea. Among other things, the guide presents three guidance documents about ballast water exchange which were developed in cooperation by HELCOM, the Barcelona Convention (for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Region of the Mediterranean) and the OSPAR Commission and which were published by IMO as circulars (cf. BWM.2 Circ.14 (2008), BWM.2 Circ.22 (2009) and BWM.2 Circ.39 (2012)). Meanwhile, the application of the D-1 standard has become mandadory with the entry into force of the Ballast Water Management Convention. The guidance documents still hold helpful Information about ballast water exchange of ships on voyage in the Northeast Atlantic, the Baltic Sea and the Mediterranean Sea, however.

In Addition, the OSPAR states have designated an exchange area for intra North Sea traffic (see BWM.2/Circ.56 as well as a map of it). This sets out that:

  1. Ships on voyage in intra North Sea traffic (and only these) are required to conduct an exchange in the designated exchange area of the North Sea if the exchange area is on their way. Ships are not obliged to divert from the planned travel route or to delay the travel to conduct a ballast water exchange. They are possibly required to conduct a partial exchange only.
  2. Intra North Sea traffic comprises all ships that operate within the North Sea only and take up or discharge ballast water in that area. This includes all rivers opening into the North Sea, as well as the Kiel Canal, which forms part of the river system Elbe. In each case, each section of the voyage has to be considered separately, i.e. even though a ship is heading for the Baltic Sea, it is considered as being intra North Sea traffic if it takes up or discharges ballast water in the North Sea/Kiel Canal.
  3. Ships from outside the North Sea shall not exchange their ballast water in the North Sea exchange areas but rather use the 200 nm distance from the nearest land, i.e. from the baseline and at least 200 m water depth on their way before entering the North Sea (or if this is impossible 50 nm distance from the nearest land, i.e. from the baseline/ 200 m water depth).
  4. The coordinates of the exchange area can be found in the annex to BWM.2/Circ.56.

On this HELCOM and OSPAR have developed the “Joint HELCOM/OSPAR Harmonised Procedure on the Granting of BWM Convention Exemptions”, which stipulates an agreed procedure to grant exemptions for the Northeast Atlantic and the Baltic Sea in accordance with A-4 of the Ballast Water Management Convention and is based on IMO Guideline G-7. The document is subject to continual review by HELCOM and OSPAR and is regularly updated due to new insights.

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Implementation of the Ballast Water Convention in Germany and FAQs

Germany joined the Ballast Water Management Convention on 13th February 2013 with the Ballast Water Act. On 20th June 2013 the appropriate instrument of ratification was deposited with the IMO Secretary General. Additional regulations to the Ballast Water Convention and in regard to infringement procedures were stipulated in the “See-Umweltverhaltensverordnung (SeeUmwVerhV)” (ordinance on maritime environmental performance).

For the execution of the See-Umweltverhaltensverordnung and the Ballast Water Act the following exception from the obligation to conduct a ballast water exchange are to be observed: General ruling by BSH.

More information about the implementation of the Ballast Water Management Convention is given in our FAQs/Environmental protection.

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Approval of ballast water treatment plants

According to the Ballast Water Management Convention ballast water treatment plants fitted in ships must be type-approved by the flag state authority, which issues a type approval certificate. The Code for Approvals of Ballast Water Management Systems (BWMS Code) contains the details for such approval of ballast water treatment systems; the Bundesamt für Seeschifffahrt und Hydrographie issues a certificate of the type approval.

Ballast water treatment plants using active substances can only be approved, if the environmental and operational soundness of the active substance has been demonstrated. The Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) approves active substances, supported by the expert group GESAMP (Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection). All approvals of plants using active substances are based on the IMO guideline G9 (resolution MEPC.169(57)).

In Germany the Bundesamt für Seeschifffahrt und Hydrographie (BSH, Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency) is responsible for the approval of ballast water treatment plants. The BSH is supported by experts of the Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung (Federal institute for risk assessment), the Umweltbundesamt (Federal Environment Agency) and the Berufsgenossenschaft für Transport und Verkehrswirtschaft (BG Verkehr).

By now a sufficient number of ballast water treatment plants which are approved according to the IMO standards are available on the market.

For more information please refer to the BSH website.

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Requirements for ballast water management systems for ships flying the German flag

Please find the requirements for ballast water management systems for ships flying the German flag in the public announcement.

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Ship Safety Division issues ballast water certificate

According to the Ballast Water Management Convention, merchant ships with a gross tonnage of 400 and above must have an international certificate demonstrating the treatment of ballast water. The individual flag state confirms with this certificate that the the treatment of ballast water on board the ship complies with the requirements of the Ballast Water Management Convention. The Ship Safety Division issues these certificates under German flag.

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