A wide variety of organisms is transported in ballast water in ocean trade vessels which may establish in new environments when discharged from the ship and alter or impact the receiving ecosystems. The first documented introduction to the North Sea and the Baltic Sea was in 1903 and further mapping up until today indicates that >100 species have been successfully introduced and established in this area. The potential impacts due to introduced organisms are ecological, economical as well as of human health concerns.
The IMO International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments and the guidelines therein address different measures that can be applied for the purpose of reducing the risk of transfer of harmful marine organisms in ballast water. Vessel may be exempt from applying any measures by applying a risk assessment. A separate guideline under the IMO Convention covers this issue.
For the purpose of handling the challenges of the North Sea and Baltic Sea area a guideline for undertaking risk assessments in this area has been produced. The guideline is based upon the contents and intentions of the IMO Guideline, recommendations from the ICES Study Group of Ballast Water and other Ship Vectors, recommendations from HELCOM and competence and knowledge with ballast water risk assessments. The work in producing the guideline has also encompassed input and comments to IMO, ICES, HELCOM and national bodies in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea area. Hence there are clear similarities between the contents of the guideline and the IMO guidelines.