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Alien Species Stay Home: The International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments 2004

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The transfer of organisms by ships has been altering the ecosystems for many decades. Living organisms within ballast water is part of this problem. Where ballast water has been taken from heavily polluted areas then potential risks for human health are also created. The International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water (the Ballast Water Convention—referred to hereafter as the BWC) is the first international attempt to provide a legal and technical instrument for a risk that was not so far covered by any legal regime. The BWC imposes obligations both on the flag and the port states and provides for a certification system that will eventually be able to regulate ballast water management. Ambitious ballast water quality standards are included but they will not be imposed until 2016 when a new generation of ships having the required new technology will be developed. These strict standards are subject to review on the basis of their feasibility and cost implications. In the meantime only some basic precautions and restrictions, together with a complex surveying and certification system, will be imposed. Moreover, these restrictions will only be imposed if they do not cause delay or deviation for the ships, arguably making one wonder whether the problem is indeed a serious and imminent threat to the environment.

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