BWM Convention


BWM Convention explained

The BWM Convention was adopted in 2004 by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the United Nations specialized agency with responsibility for developing global standards for ship safety and security and for the protection of the marine environment and the atmosphere from any harmful impacts of shipping. 

The International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments (BWM Convention) will enter into force on 8 September 2017, towards halting the spread of invasive aquatic species, which can cause havoc for local ecosystems, affect biodiversity and lead to substantial economic loss.

Under the Convention’s requirements, ships will be required to manage their ballast water to remove, render harmless, or avoid the uptake or discharge of aquatic organisms and pathogens within ballast water and sediments.


What is required

The Ballast Water Management Convention will require all ships in international trade to manage their ballast water and sediments to certain standards, according to a ship-specific ballast water management plan.

 All ships will also have to carry a ballast water record book and an International Ballast Water Management Certificate. The ballast water performance standard will be phased in over a period of time. Most ships will need to install an on-board system to treat ballast water and eliminate unwanted organisms.

The BWM Convention applies to ships entitled to fly the flag of a Party; and ships not entitled to fly the flag of a Party but which operate under the authority of a Party.

With respect to ships of non-Parties to the BWM Convention (i.e. flag State Administrations that have not ratified the Convention), Parties shall apply the requirements of the BWM Convention as may be necessary to ensure that no more favorable treatment is given to such ships.


Existing ships will be required to install onboard an approved ballast water treatment system by the first IOPP renewal survey after the 8th of September 2017, whilst new ships (constructed after the entry into force date) will have to be compliant on delivery.


Entry into force & Applicability

IMO has confirmed that the Convention will enter into force on 8th of September 2017. In the period between the entry into force date and the first IOPP renewal survey, existing ships will be required to perform the ballast water exchange according to the Convention’s requirements.

However a number of Flag State Administrations are currently giving due consideration to the de-harmonization of the MARPOL-IOPP renewal survey,  to allow performance of the renewal IOPP survey before the final implementation date of BWM ( i.e. 8th Sept. 2017) in order to postpone the installation of a BWMT system for a period of five years.

Such an approach may also provide more time for new systems to become available enabling ship owners to decide on which system to invest and install in order to have an additional 4 to 5 years span to explore new equipment systems as they become available.

However, final decision is left to the individual Flag States, thus ship owners-operators are encouraged to verify the appropriate requirements directly with the Flag States in charge for their registered vessels.


Ballast Water Management Plan (BWMP)

Ships are required to have on board and implement an approved Ballast Water Management (BWM) Plan.

The BWM Plan is specific to each ship and includes a detailed description of the actions to be taken to implement the Ballast Water Management requirements and supplemental Ballast Water Management practices.

A BWM Plan shall inter-alia:

  • assist the ship in complying with international regulations to minimize the risk of the transfer of harmful aquatic organisms and pathogens in ships’ ballast water and associated sediments;
  •  identify the ship’s Ballast Water Management Officer;
  • consider ship safety elements, provide information to PSC officers on the ship’s ballast handling system and confirm that ballast water management can be effectively planned;
  • include training on BWM operational practices;
  •  be written in the working language of the ship. If this language is not English, a translation into French or Spanish can be applied.

By the 8th of September 2017 all ships to which the Convention applies will be required to carry on board a “Ballast Water Management Plan” approved by the Administration, detailing safety procedures and actions to be taken to implement the ballast water management requirements;

INSB Class is delegated for the review and approval of the necessitated BWMP on behalf of a number of authorizing Flag States according to the Convention’s requirements.


Survey periodicity and Certification            

Every vessel above 400 GT is subject to survey and certification. Vessels below 400 GT (excluding floating platforms, FSUs and FPSOs) will be subject to national survey and certification requirements. By the 8th of September 2017 all ships to which the Convention applies will be required to carry on board an “International Ballast Water Management Certificate”.

The survey and certification scheme under the BWM Convention is similar to other IMO Conventions and requires initial, annual/intermediate and renewal surveys.

On completion of an initial survey, an International Ballast Water Management Certificate will be issued for a vessel whose flag has ratified the BWM Convention. For vessels flying a flag that has not ratified the BWM Convention, an International Ballast Water Management Statement of Compliance will be issued. Both the Certificates and the Statements of Compliance will be valid for five years subject to annual/intermediate and renewal surveys.

INSB Class is delegated to issue such a certificate and/or Statement of Compliance on behalf of a number of authorizing Flag States subject to the performance of corresponding survey.


Ballast Water Record Book

Ships must have a Ballast Water Record Book to record when ballast water is taken on board; circulated or treated for Ballast Water Management purposes; and discharged into the sea. It should also record when Ballast Water is discharged to a reception facility and accidental or other exceptional discharges of Ballast Water.

By the 8th of September 2017 all ships to which the Convention applies will be required to carry on board a “Ballast Water Record Book” for the recording of each operation concerning ballast water management.

Format of the Ballast Water Record Book can be found in Annex II of the BWM Convention.



Exemptions from the management of ballast water may be granted to ships on voyages between specified ports or operated exclusively between specified ports or locations when ballast water is not mixed other than between these ports or locations.


BWM & USCG Regulations

Ships calling in US ports are required to possess a type-approved BWMS which is compliant with USCG regulations. 

The USCG regulations require the same discharge standards as the IMO regulations, but the USCG regulations also contain some additional requirements regarding a ship’s operational procedures that expand the IMO’s requirements:

  • Clean ballast tanks regularly to remove sediments
  • Rinse anchors and chains when the anchor is retrieved
  • Remove fouling from the hull, piping and tanks on a regular basis
  • Keep records of ballast and fouling management
  • Communicate a report form 24 hours ahead of calling at a US port
  • Maintain a BWM Plan that includes the above supplemental requirements