In a globalized world economy, shipping is the most important mode of transport. Two thirds of all goods are transported by sea, with an upward trend. Ships are getting bigger and, with speeds of 25 nautical miles (approx. 50 km/h), faster, too. Docking times for offloading and loading are getting shorter, and the frequency of port calls is increasing constantly. According to the UNO, this implies an increase in one of the four major threats to the marine environment: the infiltration of ecosystems with alien organisms through ballast water. The WWF estimates that ten to twelve billion tons of ballast water a year are transported across the oceans and discharged in ports of destination during the loading of new cargo. Countless alien animal and plant organisms are released along with the ballast water. Without natural enemies they spread rapidly in their new habitat, doing irreversible damage to the local aquatic flora and fauna. This leads to considerable economic losses through destruction of fish stocks, damage to harbor installations and blocking of industrial conduits. The WWF puts the value of the documented damage worldwide at more than 11 billion euro per year. Cholera bacteria and toxin deposits in common mussels pose a direct threat to human health. To protect against these dangers, the IMO laid down strict regulations in its BWM convention in 2004 for control and treatment of ballast water in ships with over 400 gross tonnage. This so-called D-2 standard will apply from 2016 at the latest to around 50,000 ships in the world’s merchant fleet. In the USA, the IMO limit values, in a lot more stringent form, have been law since 2012. In their territorial waters, ships are only allowed to operate if they have been certified by the US Coast Guard (USCG).
Picture © Nickolay Khoroshkov – Fotolia.com
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