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Marine Log

February 15, 2007

Norway to implement new ballast water controls

Norway is to implement strict controls on ballast water management during 2007. It will apply the standards set down in the IMO Convention on ballast water to ships calling at Norwegian ports, even though it may be many years before the convention comes into force internationally, warns leading Norwegian maritime law firm Wikborg Rein.

"In December the Norwegian parliament authorized the government to accede to the International Convention for the Control and Management for Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments," explains Morten Lund Mathisen, a partner at Wikborg Rein. "The Convention was adopted by the IMO in 2004 and introduces strict regulations on the control and management of ships' ballast water. Norway will be among the first countries to join the Convention, but it is not going to wait for the rest of the world to follow. Finalization of the draft regulations to give effect to its provisions are anticipated during the spring of 2007, and will be subject to a three month consultation period. Subject to Norway's obligations under international law, the Ministry intends to implement the Convention rules in relation to ships calling at Norwegian ports before the Convention enters into force internationally. In particular, the restrictions on ballast water uptake and discharge set out in the Convention are expected to enter into force by the end of this year. The Ministry is now considering which areas along the Norwegian coastline shall be designated as ballast exchange areas."

The move has considerable commercial and operational implications for vessels calling at Norwegian ports, who will now be required to adhere to a ballast water plan, keep a strict log of ballast water management, and will only be allowed to discharge clean ballast which has been exchanged at sea in accordance with the Convention.

The Convention requires ships to conduct ballast water exchange at least 200 nautical miles from the nearest land, in at least 200 meters depth of water and in accordance with guidelines issued by IMO. If it is not possible to conduct water ballast exchange as described, it shall be carried out as far from the nearest land as possible, at least 50 nautical miles from the nearest land and in water at least 200 meters in depth.

"The Norwegian government says that the Norwegian coastline is among the world's most productive in terms of natural habitats, natural resources and the basis for economic production in the marine industry. Norway has been active in the negotiations of the Convention in the IMO in order to contribute to achieving a strict, effective and global regime in this area as soon as possible," explains Lund Mathisen. "As only a few states have signed up, Norway will move ahead and give the world a lead in applying the new measures, which are for the good of everyone. Violation of the Convention may result in the ship being detained, excluded from port or offshore terminal or prevented from discharging the ballast water. Owners who trade or may trade to Norway should get good advice on the requirements now.