The status of ballast water management in the ports of South Africa.
Ballast water discharged from ships is considered to be one of the four biggest threats to oceans, as alien species, detrimental to the marine ecosystems, are introduced into domestic waters via ballast. Nevertheless, eight years after its adoption, the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ship’s Ballast Water and Sediments of 2004 remains unenforced. In the interim, the IMO has encouraged member countries to implement national ballast water policies in order to reduce the risk of alien invasions into their waters. South Africa was chosen as one of six countries in the world to participate as a pilot country for the GloBallast programme which was conducted in Saldanha Bay between 2000 and 2004. The purpose of the GloBallast programme was to assist developing countries to understand, develop and implement control measures relating to ships ballast water within their ports. The outcome of the risk assessment completed during the programme was that South Africa needed to implement a mandatory ballast water reporting system. The purpose of this study is to examine the status of ballast water management in the ports of South Africa and to determine the progress made since South Africa participated in the GloBallast programme. The methodology used in this study included questionnaires distributed to industry experts and the full population of Ships Agents that are members of the South African Association of Ship Operations and Agents. The findings show that whilst each port is reported to have a ballast water management plan; only three of the eight potential plans could be produced. Two of these plans, belonging to the ecosensitive ports of Ngqura and Saldanha Bay, were proven to be well-known amongst the agents. The other ports, however, reflected a weak 50% and lower level of awareness. It was further determined that the ships agents are largely unaware of the responsibilities placed upon them by these plans. The findings further revealed that these regulations have not been monitored or enforced and presently ballast water management would appear to be merely a paper exercise. Those ships agents who are aware and comply with the requirements report that they have never had a problem with obtaining approval to discharge ballast. Recent developments in July 2012 show that the Department of Transport has assembled a team to further develop legislation and regulations to address ballast water management in South Africa.
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