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Ballast water

​​​​​​Ballast water is port water that is taken up by ships. It may be held in tanks on board to improve stability, even out vessel stresses and adjust vessel draft, list and trim. Ballasting is an essential part of maintaining a vessels safe operation and is vital to most cargo loading and unloading activities.

It is believed that ballast water is responsible for about 20-30 percent of all marine pest incursions into the Australian marine environment. When ballast water from foreign waters is released into Australia, live marine organisms that it contains, may establish exotic colonies.

Ballast water of international vessels is regulated by the Australian Government.

Under the Biosecurity Act 2015, it is an offence to discharge ballast water in Australian seas. However, a person does not commit an offence if an exception applies. Vessel masters are encouraged to read the Australian Ballast Water Management Requirements (Version 6) to make sure they understand their obligations.

Penalties of up to $360,000 may apply if a ballast water discharge does not meet the requirements prescribed by the Biosecurity Act. It is the responsibility of the vessel master to ensure all ballast water discharges meet one of the exceptions in Chapter 5 of the Biosecurity Act.

It is a requirement that all high risk ballast water tanks undergo a deep ocean exchange, outside the 12 nautical mile limit, prior to arrival in Australian ports or waters. This also applies to any towed vessel with the capacity to hold ballast.

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (the department) will undertake ballast water management verifications prior to arrival and on board as part of the Pratique or first port inspection. Masters should be aware that ships personnel may be required to assist with the verification process.

Barges and other vessels with limited ballast pumping capabilities should take note of the guidelines below.

To negate the need to exchange ballast, it is recommended that ballast tanks are filled with potable municipal water prior to leaving port. The department recognises some towed vessels may have alternate ballasting system. These vessels can be managed on a case by case basis. Contact the MNCC for further details.

Evidence of the water source must be provided to the department on request in the form of a declaration by the port Authority or facility operator, where this activity has been undertaken, on business letterhead signed and dated by the responsible organisations manager or supervisor. An accompanying invoice is also recommended to be attached.

Reporting requirements

  • electronic Pre-Arrival Report (ePAR) – Question 9 ‘Is the vessel in compliance with the A​ustralian Ballast Water Management Requirements?’ seeks information about ballast water management where a Yes or No answer is required.
  • Vessels are required to manage ballast water in accordance with Australian ballast water requirements. Biosecurity officers may conduct a ballast verification and confirm that appropriate ballast exchanges have been conducted. Ballast verification can occur prior to arrival by submitting a Ballast Water Report (BWR) to the Maritime National Co-ordination Centre for assessment 12 – 96 hours prior to arrival or alternatively an on board verification can be conducted following vessel arrival. Vessels that have not managed ballast water according to Australian requirements may be in breach of the Biosecurity Act 2015 if ballast water discharge within Australian territorial water is intended.
  • Ballast Water Report (BWR) – To achieve compliance with ballast water reporting requirements, record ballast water details using a reporting option below:

Ballast Water Report (BWR) for Ballast Water Management Systems – Vessels discharging ballast water managed using a Ballast Water Management System are to provide details using the Ballast Water Management System Report.

Ballast Water Report (BWR) other than Ballast Water Management Systems – Vessels undertaking deep-ocean exchange are to provide details using the Ballast Wa​ter Report (BRW) other than Ballast Water Management Systems. Refer to the Guide for Ballast Water Report (BRW) other than Ballast Water Management Systems for information on completing the reporting requirements.

Vessels must retain all ballast water reports and any relevant vessel logbooks for a period of two years, and make these available to biosecurity officers on request.

For more information on how to comply with biosecurity requirements for ballast water refer to the Australian Ballast Water Management Requirements.