Ballast Water


Key Legislation:

For more detail on the Legislation relevant to this page, please use the following links:

Supporting Legislation:



Consent Needed: United Kingdom Oil Pollution Prevention Certificate (UKOPP) or IOPP Certificate required by all tankers > 150 GRT and all ships > 400 GRT. No consent requirements currently in place for management of introduced species from ballast water and sediments. However, see the Performance Standards tab.
How to Apply: Vessel owner/operator must request the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) conduct a survey of oily water drainage and treatment systems; MCA then issue a certificate.
Who to Apply to: Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA).
When to Apply: Certificate is first issued on vessel commissioning and then is renewable on a 5 yearly basis (seethe Renewal and  Variation tab).
Segregated Ballast:

Crude oil tankers whose keel was laid after 1 January 1980 of >20,000 tonnes deadweight must have segregated ballast tanks and crude oil washing system in place for cargo tank cleaning. Older tankers of >40,000 tonnes deadweight must also have segregated ballast tanks/crude oil washing system in place.

Oily Discharges: The discharge into the sea of oil or oily mixtures from a tanker is prohibited if the tanker is less than 50 nautical miles from land.
Ballast Water Management: Compliance with the MCA Guidance (MGN81) is not at present legally required, but shipping agents and ship owners are strongly urged to ensure that vessel discharging ballast in UK waters comply with the Guidelines. The Guidelines set out requirements for ships including:

  • Each ship carrying ballast water should contain its own ship specific Ballast Water Management Plan. This should include an indication of records required, and the location of ballast sampling points.
  • It is recommended that each ship should have a designated responsible officer, in order to maintain necessary records and ensure that appropriate procedures are followed.
  • Ships should follow harbour ballast water guidelines.
  • Avoid uptake of ballast in darkness when bottom-dwelling organisms may rise up the water column.
  • Avoid uptake in very shallow water or where propellers may stir up sediment.
  • Carry out routine removal and appropriate disposal of ballast water sediment.
  • Avoid discharging ballast water when in harbour unless necessary.
  • If ballast is exchanged, use the most appropriate tanks to minimise risk of introductions (i.e. old ballast or ballast from environmentally disparate sites).
Oily Discharges: Record all discharges, together with date, time and method of discharge, disposal route, any system failure and accidental oil spills, in the Oil Record Book.
Ballast Water: Records are to be maintained of ballast water uptakes, discharges and exchanges as per the Ballast Water Management Plan.
Oily Discharges: Regular reporting is not required, although backdated entries in the Oil Record Book must be maintained for at least 3 years. Inspections will be undertaken periodically to ensure compliance.
Ballast Water: None.
Non-Compliance: Non-compliance would constitute a breach of United Kingdom/International Oil Pollution Prevention Certificates requirements and might be discharge of oily water within a harbour area or failure to properly keep the Oil Record Book. If a discharge outside of legal requirements is made, then it should be recorded in the Oil Record Book which has to be kept available for inspection.
UKOPP/IOPP Certificate: The Certificate must be renewed every 5 years, following inspection by the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS).
International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments: This Convention was adopted by the IMO on 13 February 2004, however it is not yet in force. The Convention provides for requirements for reception facilities, research and monitoring programmes, ballast water record books, ship survey and certification and technical requirements for the control and management of ships’ ballast water and sediments. Further information can be found in MCA MGN363 (see Guidance under the Legislation tab).A number of guidelines have been developed in order to ensure a uniform implementation of the Convention. Guidelines have been written for:

  • Sediments reception facilities
  • Ballast water sampling
  • Ballast water management equivalent compliance
  • Ballast water management and development of Ballast Water Management Plans
  • Ballast water reception facilities
  • Ballast water exchange
  • Risk assessment methodology
  • Approval of ballast water management systems
  • Procedure for approval of ballast water management systems that make use of active substances
  • Approval and oversight of prototype ballast water treatment technology programmes
  • Ballast water exchange design and construction standards
  • Sediment control on ships
  • Additional measures including emergency situations
  • Designation of areas for ballast water exchange

As it will be 2009 at the earliest before the Convention comes into force and the Guidelines are fully developed and in place, shipping agents, ship owners and masters of UK Flag vessels are strongly urged to comply with the operational guidance in the 1997 Guidelines (see Guidance under the Legislation tab) and begin preparing and implementing for the requirements the new IMO Convention and its supporting Guidelines.

Ballast Water Management Strategy for North West Europe: Ballast water scoping studies have been developed for north west Europe and are available on the MCA website. Further information on the status and potential requirements of the Strategy can be found on the MCA Website – Ballast Water.
Wildlife Management Legislation Reform: In 2012 the Law Commission undertook consultation to reform outdated wildlife legislation. Much of the older legislation is out of step with modern requirements, and the principal modern Act – the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 – has been amended to such a degree that it is difficult for any non-specialists to use. A consultation summary paper (PDF document) has been produced as well as a consultation impact assessment (PDF document).
Ballast Water Management (BWM): International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Report to the Marine Environment Protection Committee (PDF document – February 2014)A detailed report which includes topics such as:

  • Guidelines for implementation of the BWM Convention
  • Improved & new techniques for BWM systems & reduction of atmospheric pollution
International Convention for the Control and Management of Ship’s Ballast Water and Sediments The Australian Government is introducing new ballast water management requirements under the Biosecurity Act (2015) for ships engaged in international voyages. Changes include ballast water exchanges to take place 12 nm from the coast or outer edge of the Great Barrier Reef or part of the Torres Strait. More details available here.
International Convention for the Control and Management of Ship’s Ballast Water and Sediments Accession by Finland has triggered the entry into force of the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments  (BWM Convention), a key international measure for environmental protection that aims to stop the spread of potentially invasive aquatic species in ships’ ballast water. The BWM Convention will enter into force on 8 September 2017.
MIN 544 (M+F) International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments 2004 Marine Information Note to provide details on the Ballast Water Management Convention and its implementation in the UK.
OSPAR/HELCOM Joint Task Group on Ballast Water Exemptions: OSPAR and the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (HELCOM) (PDF document) are working together to develop joint guidelines for the granting of exemptions under the International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) Convention on Ballast Water Management. The focus will be on developing common guidance on port surveys, target species selection, risk assessment methodologies and administrative procedures.
OSPAR and HELCOM release online ballast water risk assessment tool The new online tool includes several improvements from the July 2014 version and allows users to identify routes that may be exempt from ballast water management for ships based on departure and destination ports.