On 10 July, Jamaica’s House of Representatives passed the Ballast Water Management Bill, which is aimed at protecting Jamaica’s marine environment, by implementing measures to prevent ships from introducing foreign aquatic species when entering domestic waters.
The legislation is expected to regulate how ships discard their ballast water and also ensure compliance with international standards. Non compliance could result in fines of up to $30 million. The bill is to be administered by the Maritime Authority of Jamaica, according to government agency Jamaica Information Service.
On the occasion, the Minister of Transport and Mining, Hon. Robert Montague, said the Bill is aligned with the IMO’s BWM Convention, of which Jamaica is a signatory. The IMO treaty, adopted in 2004 but applied in September 2017, provides a global legal framework for the management of ships’ ballast water.
Mr. Montague noted that approximately 10 billion tonnes of ballast water are transferred globally on an annual basis, and approximately 10,000 species, including invasive aquatic species, were carried each day in the ballast tanks of ships.
The transfer of invasive aquatic species in the ballast has contributed to the collapse of fisheries, the increased risk to the spread of cholera and shellfish poisoning in humans. In Jamaica, the introduction of Asian green mussels found in the Kingston Harbour has been identified by the University of the West Indies as having been introduced into Jamaican waters via ballast water,
…Mr. Montague was quoted as saying by Jamaica Information Service.
Approximately 2,400 ships call Jamaica every year, including vessels exporting bulk cargo, such as bauxite and alumina, which discharge their ballast water prior to the loading operation. This puts the country at risk of having invasive aquatic species introduced into the maritime environment as well as pathogens such as cholera, he explained.
In addition, he noted, the activities of the large foreign flagged vessels currently transiting the country’s territorial waters due to the widening of the Panama Canal put the country at risk, so too the dredging of the Kingston Transhipment Terminal, and the recent opening of the bauxite plant in Nain.
Ships are required to carry onboard a ballast water management plan and a ballast water record book. Additionally, based on their date of construction and the size of their ballast water tanks, ships are required to exchange their ballast water in accordance with the legislation or install ballast water treatment systems, which will prevent, reduce or eliminate invasive species and pathogens.