The Union Cabinet chaired by the Indian Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, today gave its approval for the introduction of the Merchant Shipping (Amendment) Bill, 2015 and accession to the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments, 2004 (Ballast Water Management Convention) of International Maritime Organization (IMO).
The Convention requires all new ships to implement an approved Ballast Water and Sediments Management Plan. All new ships will also have to carry a Ballast Water Record Book and follow ballast water management procedures to a given standard. Existing ships will be required to do the same but after a phase-in period. Ships are required to be surveyed and certified and may also be inspected by Port State Control officers who can verify that the ship has a valid certificate. They can also inspect the Ballast Water Record Book and in some situations, sample the ballast water.
The Merchant Shipping Amendment Bill, 2015 incorporates into the Merchant Shipping Act, 1958 the enabling provisions required for implementing the Convention. Indian ships of 400 Gross Tonnage (GT) and above on international voyages are required to possess an International Ballast Water Management Certificate. Indian ships below 400 GT plying within the territorial waters of India shall be issued an Indian Ballast Water Management Certificate. Ships which are not designed/constructed to carry ballast water, warships, naval auxiliary or other government-owned non-commercial ships are exempted.
Port authorities will be statutorily obliged to provide ballast water sediment reception facilities. Indian and foreign Ships of 400 GT and above are required to carry onboard a Ballast Water Management Plan. Ships of 400 GT above shall also be subject to survey and inspection. During inspection sample of ballast water can be analyzed (but this sample analyzing process should not cause undue delay in the operation/departure of the ship). If a ship complies with the convention but is still detained/delayed for inspection without any reasonable cause, it will be eligible for compensation/ damages.
The proposed Bill also provides for penalty on violation/non-compliance of the provisions. There are no financial implications to the Government. Ports will charge ships for the use of such facilities.
Ships fill their ballast tanks with water to stabilize vessels at sea for maintaining safe operating conditions throughout a voyage. Ballast water reduces stress on the hull, provides transverse stability, improves propulsion and maneuverability and compensates for weight. However, ballast water poses serious ecological, economic and health problems due to the multitude of marine species being carried in the process, including Harmful Aquatic Organisms and Pathogens (HAOP).