Photo credit: Louis Rhéaume
Photo credit: Louis Rhéaume

Ballast water is pumped into the ballast tanks to ensure the stability and safety of the ship by evenly distributing weight. When no longer required, it is discharged into the sea. Ballast water can contain aquatic species (e.g. microalgae, aquatic plants and animals) and pathogens that are pumped into the tanks. Once the ballast water is discharged into the receiving waters, non-indigenous species can pose a threat to human health, marine infrastructures and biodiversity. They are called aquatic invasive species.

Canada has been regulating ballast water operations in Canadian waters since 2006, well before the entry into force, in 2017, of the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments.

According to the Canadian Ballast Water Control and Management Regulations:

  • Ships arriving from overseas into Canadian waters must:
    • Exchange ballast water in open seas, and, if heading to the Great Lakes, exchange ballast water in open seas and use saltwater flushing, and/or
    • Treat ballast water (to IMO standard), and/or
    • Retain ballast water on board, and/or
    • Dispose of ballast water on shore, at the proper port facility.
    • Ships must send a Canadian Ballast Water Reporting Form to Transport Canada:
      • Transport Canada reviews the form and verifies that the exchange was performed.
      • Inspectors verify the following:
        • Ship’s documentation and management plan
        • Crew’s familiarity with ballast water management plan
        • Ballast water salinity (30 ppm) in each tank using a refractometer: evidence that the exchange has been performed.

Canada has the best ballast water management system in North America.
Scientific assessment has shown that no invasive species have been identified since 2006, when the ‘flushing’ measure was first implemented.
100% of ballast water reports are verified, 365 days/year.

The entry into force of the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments, requires that every ship has:

  • A valid ballast water management certificate
  • A ballast water management plan
  • A ballast water record book
  • An approved ballast water treatment system installed on board at the end of a defined implementation schedule.
  • Ballast water exchange at sea will then no longer be accepted as the sole method for managing ballast water.