The House of Representatives passed the Ballast Water Management Bill, which is aimed at protecting Jamaica’s marine environment, said Jamaica Information Service, a government agency.
The legislation seeks to implement measures to prevent ships entering Jamaica’s waters from introducing foreign aquatic species and diseases into the country.
The Minister of Transport and Mining, Robert Montague, said the Bill is in keeping with commitments under the Ballast Water Management Convention, of which Jamaica is a signatory.
He explained that the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Convention, adopted in 2004, “provides a global legal framework for the regulation and management of ships’ ballast water and the sediments that remain in the tanks of the vessels after the ballast water has been discharged”.
Minister Montague noted that approximately 10 billion tonnes of ballast water are transferred globally on an annual basis, and approximately 10,000 species, including invasive aquatic species, were carried each day in the ballast tanks of ships.
“The transfer of invasive aquatic species in the ballast has contributed to the collapse of fisheries, the increased risk to the spread of cholera and shellfish poisoning in humans,” he noted.
“In Jamaica, the introduction of Asian green mussels found in the Kingston Harbour has been identified by the University of the West Indies as having been introduced into Jamaican waters via ballast water,” he added.
Montague said the country gets approximately 2,400 ship calls per year, including vessels exporting bulk cargo, such as bauxite and alumina, which discharge their ballast water prior to the loading operation.
“Jamaica is, therefore, at risk of having invasive aquatic species being introduced into our maritime environment as well as pathogens such as cholera being introduced into the country,” the Minister pointed out.
He noted that the activities of the large foreign flagged vessels currently transiting the country’s territorial waters due to the widening of the Panama Canal put the country at risk, so too the dredging of the Kingston Transhipment Terminal, and the recent opening of the bauxite plant in Nain.
The legislation will regulate how ships discard their ballast water and will also ensure compliance with international standards. It is to be administered by the Maritime Authority of Jamaica.