“That Ireland would ratify the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships Ballast Water and Sediments 2004.”
Motion to full Council, 23-10-2017
When a ship’s cargo is unloaded, ballast water is pumped in to maintain safe operating conditions throughout a voyage. When the ship is later reloaded, often on the other side of the world, the water is discharged. So ballast water is essential for safe and efficient modern shipping operations.
But ballast water may pose serious ecological, economic and health problems. As the ballast tanks are filled and drained in different sequences, the water in one tank may comprise water and sediments from several ports. And that water will include organisms, suspended solids, chemicals, including industrial and human wastes. In 14 recent European ballast studies, 990 different species were recorded from ballast tanks, ranging from bacteria to 15 cm long fishes. Discharge of ballast tanks into port waters far from where it was taken on board gives a very real and direct opportunity for species transfer between countries. Specialists in the UN estimate that more than 7,000 species can be carried across the globe in ships’ ballast tanks. Some of these may be pathogenic and some may be invasive in an environment that is not their own.
The National Biodiversity Data Centre estimates that invasive and non-native species cost Ireland and Northern Ireland some €261 million every year due to biodiversity loss and impact on economic activity and human health. Japanese knotweed has shown us that even to control an invasive species takes massive time and financial resources. The NBDC estimates that about 13% of the 377 recorded non-native species here have a high-risk impact. And the rate of introduction is increasing.
Shipping is global. 90% of goods are carried around the world in ships. it is reckoned to transfer up to 5 billion tonnes of ballast water around ports of the world every year. So tackling the spread of disease and invasives through ballast water has to be a global issue. This is what the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships Ballast Water and Sediments is all about. Led by the IMO Member States, it was adopted after 14 years of negotiation. It entered into force last September. But it works only if it is ratified by everybody. Over 50 countries have done so. Ireland, although it drafted legislation in 2006 to allow its implementation here, has not yet ratified the Convention. The only really effective way of tackling invasives is controlling them at source. Here we have a real opportunity to protect ourselves and others by doing just that and we haven’t done it yet. Direct contact with the IMO office in London indicates that they are very anxious that we would do so and cannot understand why we are not. Last year, Minister Shane Ross has said that the 2006 legislation is being amended to take account of recent changes to the convention and that Ireland would ratify it before it entered into force. But we haven’t.
Ask that we would write to the Minister asking that we express our desire for Ireland to follow up on its promise of years, not waste any more time and ratify this convention.