A ship ballast stock

The Nigerian Maritime Administration NIMASA has assured that it is committed to strict enforcement of the Ballast Water Management Convention BWMC to ensure that foreign vessels do not dump their ballast waters anywhere in the country, which will damage the nation’s marine environment and eco system.

Director General of the agency, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, who gave the assurance, spoke at the ongoing three-day regional workshop on Ballast Water Management Convention organised in Lagos by the International Maritime Organisation IMO, and facilitated by NIMASA under the auspices of the framework of the Integrated Technical Cooperation Programme of the IMO.

The programme is designed to assist developing countries in the implementation of their maritime roles and standards in a harmonised manner in accordance with the IMO’s global mandate to promote safe, secure, environmentally sound, efficient and sustainable shipping through cooperation.

Adopted by the IMO in February 2004, the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments came into force in 2018, to minimise the transfer of harmful organisms and pathogens. This was in response to the growing concerns over the problem of invasive alien species on the marine environment as a result of ballast carried by ships.  

The DG told participants at the workshop that Nigeria has since the coming into force of the convention put measures in place to ensure its strict enforcement and compliance, one of which is the organising of the regional workshops, which is in line with the desire to support the timely and harmonised implementation of the convention in the West and Central African Sub-region with priority and emphasis on the ratification and implementation by member states.

He also disclosed that in addition to building capacity in the area of Compliance, Monitoring and Enforcement CME, the country has also done Port Biological Base Line Surveys PHBS, and risk assessments    

It was further gathered that Nigeria, which was among the first five countries to ratify the convention had also taken some giant strides towards ensuring its full implementation, which include the development and gazetting of regulations on the implementation of the BWMC in line with Merchant Navy Act 2007.

The country has also developed an enforcement and implementation manual on ships’ ballast water, developed guidelines with reference to IMO’s instruments on ballast water reception facility and ballast water areas.

Others include the development of guidelines for the enforcement of the violations of regulation of ballast water management, establishment of a globally recognised and integrated Ballast Water testing laboratory and the development of a home-grown concept of ballast water management on ports With Acceptable Risks, which the country presented at the MPEC 74, held in May, 2019.

Other giant strides include the designation of allowable ballast water discharge zones in Nigeria and the development of guidelines for ship owners including the type of ballast water management equipment and systems as well as feasibility studies for the designation of ballast water management exchange for Lagos, among others.

While speaking with newsmen at the sidelines of the workshop, the DG noted that these measures have yet to begin to yield visible results, but assured that the ultimate aim was to ensure strict compliance with the convention not only in Nigeria but also across West and Central African sub-region to ensure a minimum discharge of invasive species in the waters.

He also assured that Nigeria will continue to partner other regional African neighbours, arguing that water has no boundaries, as any discharge in one country or jurisdiction will definitely affect the other countries and hence the need to work together.

Meanwhile, NIMASA’s director in charge of Marine Environment Management unit, Dr. Felicia Mogo, who also spoke in an interview, described ballast water as both sweet and sour in that it is used to balance the ship and which if not properly managed can also cause serious harm serious harm to the marine environment and eco systems and therefore destroy food web and food chain  

She however admitted that the greatest challenge faced by Nigeria in ensuring the full compliance to the convention is getting the other neighbouring countries to be on the same page with Nigeria in terms of implementation and compliance but assured that the agency will leave no stone unturned in trying to achieve this goal.

Over eight countries are in attendance at the workshop which apart from Nigeria the host country includes Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Senegal, The Gambia and Sao Tome and Principe, among others.