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Ballast water

The Biosecurity Amendment (Ballast Water and Other Measures) Act 2017 (the amendment Act) received Royal Assent on Wednesday, 17 May 2017.

The amendment Act updates the Biosecurity Act 2015 to strengthen Australia’s ability to manage ballast water in ships, and positions Australia to ratify the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments (the Ballast Water Management Convention). These changes will commence when the Ballast Water Management Convention enters into force for Australia.

Consultation is now open on the Biosecurity Amendment (Ballast Water and Sediment) Determination 2017 Exposure Draft which details the requirements associated with reporting, management, certification, records and decisions relating to ballast water. See Ballast water consultation and engagement for the draft determination and instructions on how to supply feedback.

Ballast water is water taken on board by vessels to maintain stability and trim. Ballast water can contain thousands of aquatic microbes, plants and animals, which can be spread across the globe as the vessel releases ballast water. Unmanaged ballast water released in foreign ports could potentially introduce a range of invasive marine species. Invasions have already taken place around the world, in some instances with significant consequences for the local ecosystem.

Managing ballast water risks

The Australian Ballast Water Management Requirements provide guidance on how vessel operators should manage ballast water when operating within Australian seas in order to comply with the Biosecurity Act.

Ballast Water Management Convention

The International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments (the Ballast Water Management Convention) was adopted in principle in 2004 to introduce global regulations to control the transfer of potentially invasive species. Once the treaty enters into force, ballast water will be required to be managed before it is discharged. This will minimise the threat of microorganisms or small marine species establishing in a foreign port. The Ballast Water Management Convention will enter into force internationally on 8 September 2017.

Australia’s domestic regulations

The Biosecurity Act introduces nationally consistent domestic ballast water requirements to reduce the risk of spreading marine pests that have already established in Australian seas.

Australia is working towards ratification of the Ballast Water Management Convention. Once the convention enters into force for Australia domestic ballast water regulations under the Biosecurity Act will apply nationwide. Until that time, vessel masters must continue to comply with all relevant state and territory requirements.

The State of Victoria has requirements for the management of Australian-sourced domestic ballast water that are enforced by the Victorian State Government Environment Protection Authority (EPA Victoria) under the Environment Protection Act 1970 (Vic.).

Please visit EPA Victoria for ballast water management requirements when entering a Victorian port.

Policy and legislation

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources is the lead Australian Government agency responsible for regulating the management of ballast water in Australia.

Ballast water has been regulated by the Australian Government since 2001, and has been regulated under the Biosecurity Act 2015 since 16 June 2016. The Biosecurity Act has a chapter devoted to the management of ballast water and sediments within Australian seas. This chapter provides assessment and management powers to biosecurity officers specific to vessels intending to discharge ballast water.

On 17 May 2017, the Biosecurity Amendment (Ballast Water and Other Measures) Act 2017, which broadens these existing powers, received Royal Assent. This moves Australia into position to ratify the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments.

Policy positions are being developed on a range of topics to guide implementation of the ballast water management requirements under Biosecurity Act.

Ballast water consultation and engagement

The Biosecurity (Ballast Water and Sediment) Determination 2017 Exposure Draft determines the requirements associated with reporting, management, certification, records and decisions relating to ballast water.

This document is now open for feedback. Make your submission by 5pm AEST on Wednesday 14 June 2017 to Marine Pests.

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Biosecurity (Ballast Water and Sediment) Determination 2017 exposure draft24PDF476 KB
Biosecurity (Ballast Water and Sediment) Determination 2017 exposure draft24Word358 KB

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History of consultation and engagement

The Biosecurity Act 2015 (the Act) commenced on 16 June 2016, and was updated by the Biosecurity Amendment (Ballast Water and Other Measures) Act 2017 (the amendment Act), which received Royal Assent on 17 May 2017. The legislation introduced new ballast water management requirements for vessels in line with the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments 2004 (the Ballast Water Management Convention). This includes new national domestic ballast water requirements to reduce the risk of spreading marine pests that establish in Australian seas. Ballast water changes introduced by the amendment Act will commence when the Ballast Water Management Convention enters into force for Australia.

To support the transition to the new requirements under the Act, the department is undertaking stakeholder engagement activities with state and territory government agencies, industry and other relevant Commonwealth agencies to ensure stakeholders are aware of and are prepared for the changes.

The first round of engagement took place between June – September 2016 with state and territory government agencies. The purpose of these meetings was to provide an update on impending domestic ballast water regulations and to establish working groups to discuss the regulation of domestic ballast water under the Act.

Engagement with state and territory government agencies, as well as industry has been ongoing and will continue throughout 2017.

Keep up to date with ballast water requirements

If you would like to be kept informed of further developments in the implementation of nationally consistent ballast water arrangements, please subscribe to regular updates.

Alternatively, for more information please email Marine Pests.​