Shipping moves over 80% of the world’s commodities and transfers approximately 3 to 5 billion tonnes of ballast water internationally each year. A similar volume may also be transferred domestically within countries and regions each year. Ballast water is absolutely essential to the safe and efficient operation of modern shipping, providing balance and stability to un-laden ships. However, it may also pose a serious ecological, economic and health threat.
The UN considers the introduction of non-indigenous oceanic species to be one of the top four serious threats to the global environment. At any given time, 35 000 ships are en route on the water of the Earth and more than 3000 species are being transported in their ballast tanks. The UN’s International Maritime Organization estimates that ten billion tons of ballast water is transported around the world every year.
The past decade has seen a marked increase in the spread of species to areas where they do not naturally belong. This creates an imbalance in ecosystems and is a serious environmental threat. Many times the invader has no natural predator and the original species become extinct and the entire marine ecosystem is disrupted. This has dramatic consequences for biodiversity and for industries such as fishing and aquaculture.