Tougher stance to be taken against invading marine pests in ballast

24 September 2008

New Zealand's defence against marine pest arrivals is set to be strengthened with a recent Government decision to join an international convention controlling ships' ballast water discharges.

The discharge of ballast water is one of the main ways ocean pest species can be introduced to New Zealand waters. Each year almost three million metric tonnes of ballast water sourced from outside waters is discharged into New Zealand ports. If unmanaged, this water can contain the eggs and larvae of marine organisms able to establish here.

"Marine pests can threaten a range of economic, social, cultural, and environmental benefits we derive from our seas," says Allan Bauckham, MAF Biosecurity New Zealand's Marine Biosecurity Programme Coordinator.

"As well, once established here, these pests are extremely difficult and costly to control, and their impacts are usually irreversible."

While New Zealand has existing mandatory controls on ballast water discharges, Government has agreed stricter controls are required and has announced that New Zealand will accede to the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships Ballast Water and Sediments 2004.

"By joining the Convention, we will be adopting the most effective way to address this shipping issue, through a standardised international control regime developed by the International Maritime Organization," Allan Bauckham says

The Convention will not come into force until 30 states representing 35 percent of world merchant shipping tonnage have become Parties. To date 14 states have joined and there appears to be sufficient international support for it. When in force, it will provide a binding set of international regulations to control discharges.

A key feature will be a stringent performance standard requiring new ships, and eventually all ships to operate ship-board treatment systems to disinfect ballast water taken up in foreign ports. Also included will be procedures for member countries to take enforcement action where the regulations are violated.

A programme of legislative change is now required to meet obligations imposed by the Convention. This will involve amendments to the Maritime Transport Act in particular, and the development of Rules under that Act.

Part of this work will involve the creation of a new Ballast Water Levy to cover the cost of an inspection regime to confirm compliance with the Convention's requirements.

This annual levy will apply to ships, both international and New Zealand-flagged, bringing ballast water from outside New Zealand for discharge in our waters. It will be administered through Maritime New Zealand.

The Convention will apply to New Zealand on the date it enters into force, or three months after the date of accession by New Zealand - whichever is the latter. It is possible this will be in late 2010 or in 2011.

MAF Biosecurity New Zealand undertook a consultation process on the options for New Zealand in response to the Convention, prior to providing advice to Cabinet. The option of becoming party to the Convention was widely supported in submissions received.

There will be further opportunity for public and industry input into the legislative amendments, the Rules for ballast discharges and the regulations for levies and charges.

 

ENDS

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Lesley Patston | Communications Adviser | Telephone 029 894 0163

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