On the 5th of September 2017, Legal Notice 222 of 2017 entitled the Merchant Shipping (Ballast Water Management Convention) Regulations 2017 (hereinafter ‘the Regulations’), was published in the Government Gazette.

The International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water & Sediments (2004) (the “Convention”) is now part of and enforceable as Maltese law, with the Regulations coming into force on the 8th of September 2017.

The Convention aims to counter the spread of harmful aquatic organisms and invasive aquatic species, contained in ships’ ballast water tanks, from one geographical area to another. Under the Convention, all ships engaged in international traffic are now obliged to manage and treat their ballast water and sediments in accordance with the rules and standards set out in the Convention.

Under these Regulations, all Maltese ships and all other ships in Maltese waters are now obliged to:

  1. Carry on board and implement a ‘Ballast Water Management Plan’ drawn up in accordance with regulation B-1 of the Convention and in line with the official guidelines on the subject as well as being approved by Transport Malta;
  2. Obtain a ‘Ballast Water Management Certificate’ issued after completion of a survey in accordance with Regulation E-1 of the Convention;
  3. Maintain a ‘Ballast Water Record Book’ on board the ship for a minimum period of two years in which each operation concerning ballast water will be fully recorded.

The technical ballast water exchange and performance standards that must be respected by Maltese ships are provided for in Regulations 9-11 of the Regulations and in Regulations D-1 – D-3 of the Convention.

Compliance with such standards is staggered. Adherence by existing ships has been paired with the renewal survey of the International Oil Pollution Prevention (IOPP) Certificate pursuant to MARPOL, whilst ships built on or after 8th September 2017 must comply with the standards in Regulation D-2 of the Convention upon completion date of build. Detailed information on the applicable dates of compliance may be found in the Merchant Shipping Notice referred to below.

Certain types of ships are excluded from the scope of the Regulations. Since the purpose of the Convention is to prevent the ‘cross border’ discharge of ballast water and sediments, Maltese ships operating only within Maltese waters or within the waters of other parties to the Convention are excluded. Additionally, ships which only operate in waters under the jurisdiction of Malta and on the high seas, together with warships, naval auxiliaries or other ships owned or operated by a State and only used on government non-commercial service are also excluded. Pleasure yachts do not fall within the scope of the Regulations unless longer than fifty metres in overall length and having a maximum ballast water capacity of more than eight cubic metres.

Transport Malta may exempt certain vessels from the scope of the Regulations. This is provided for in Article 13 of the Regulations and includes further exemptions to those ships on voyages, or when operating exclusively between specific ports or locations. It is also worth noting that ships making use of approved reception facilities for the discharge and treatment of ballast water are excluded from the scope of the Regulations.

On the 12th of September 2017, the Merchant Shipping Directorate published Merchant Shipping Notice 138 on the “Implementation of the International Ballast Water Management Convention”.

Click here for further details about MS Notice 138.