The Director General of Nigerian Maritime Safety and Administration (NIMASA), Dakuku Peterside has called on countries in the West and Central Africa region to show commitment to the implementation of Ballast Water Convention in ensuring safe, secure and sustainable shipping environment in the region and beyond.
Ballast water is water carried in vessel tanks to improve stability, balance and trim. It is taken up or discharged when cargo is unloaded or loaded, or when a ship needs extra stability in poor weather.
However, the Ballast water taken into a tank from one body of water and discharged in another body of water can introduce invasive species of aquatic life, this could destroy the ecosystem of a country or region.
Peterside made the call yesterday in Lagos at the Regional Workshop for West and Central African countries on Ballast Water Management Convention (BWMC) hosted by the International Maritime Organization and NIMASA.
Peterside, who reiterated NIMASA’s commitment to the implementation of the Ballast Water Convention of 2004 said the agency will continue to corporate with other African countries especially the sub-region ones so as to effectively have a safer and clean water free of invasive species that can harm the economy of their nation.
According to him, Nigeria was among the first five countries to ensure ratification of the convention and it has since taken bold steps in ensuring its implementation, part of which includes; development and gazetting of regulations on ballast water management, pursuant to the Nigerian Merchant Shipping Act 2007.
Other steps taken by the agency on implementation of the convention includes; development and implementation manual on ships ballast water.
“Development of guidelines with reference to IMO documents for Ballast water reception facilities and ballast water exchange areas”
“Development of guidelines for enforcement of violations of the regulations on ballast water management. Development of globally recognized and integrated ballast water testing laboratories
Designation of allowable Ballast water zones in Nigeria”
The DG of the apex maritime regulatory agency in Nigeria stressed that it was important that Nigeria supports other African countries especially those in the sub-region so as to effectively implement ballast water and ensure compliance to the convention.
“No water is in isolation because when there is invasive species in the waters of our neighbouring states the chances are, they could migrate to our water and it is difficult to have boundaries when it comes to water in the high sea. “It is better that all of us work very hard to protect our various exclusive economy zone from invasion by alien species.”
“Nigeria being among the first five countries to ratify the convention has taken giant steps in ensuring its implementation since the convention was initiated in 2004, even though it was not until 2017 that it came to force”
“With the implementation we will minimise the occurrence of invasive species carried by vessels coming to our waters and it’s beginning to show that you can’t carry ballast and discharged it anywhere within Nigerian water”
“One of the things we have done is designate special exchange areas where you can discharge your ballast water”
“We have also set up a specialised ballast water laboratory where we test your ballast , which Nigeria has also presented it to IMO, Port Assessment Risk Report which is a different model and very soon, it will yield result but the ultimate result is, we want to see high level of compliance and the implication of high level compliance is that there will be a minimal occurrence of a discharge of invasive species in our exclusive economy within our waters”
“Nigeria has commenced the baseline survey of different areas to identify species that exists within our coastal waters and of course keep appropriate data, so that if there is alien species in our water we will be able to identify them, isolate and and treat them as soon as practical but the idea is that no foreign invasive species should be found in our waters.
“We want to maintain the guidelines for biodiversity that is the ultimate thing for us when it comes to managing ballast water that ships should not bring alien species that will invade our coastal water and destroy our biodiversity” he said
Also speaking at the conference, Secretary General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Kitack Lim said that about 81 countries have so far ratified the Ballast Water Convention, representing 80% of world tonnage.
Mr Lim who was represented by Dr. Mrs Meagan said that more countries are in the ratification process.
According to him “Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Republic of Gambia have all acceded to the convention while others like Equatorial Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Sao Tome and Principe are yet to accede to the convention”
He said the IMO would continue to support countries within the region in their effort in protecting their marine environment
According to him “There is a need for uniformed implementation of harmonised ballast water management regime around the world and a harmonised approach to monitoring, compliance and enforcement is a crucial part of that”