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GloBallast Partnerships

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RAC/REMPEITC-Caribe is the Regional Coordinating Organization in the Wider Caribbean Region for the GloBallast Partnerships project that aims to help developing countries to establish ballast water management policies in order to decrease the risk of marine bio-invasions.

I. Background   

1.     Ballast water and invasive species

            In order to stabilize and balance the boat, and depending of the quantity of  load onboard, ballast water is taken from an area and carried in special tanks. The International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) definition of ballast is “any material used to balance or weight an object”. In the past, materials like stone were often used. However, since a few decades and the appearance of water tight hulls, water has been replacing other materials. Nowadays, ballast water is absolutely indispensable to ensure safe and efficient shipping procedures. According to IMO, a single bulk cargo ship of 200,000t can carry up to 60,000t of ballast water. Up to 10 billions tonnes of ballast water are transferred annually: 3 to 5 internationally, and the same amount domestically. The amount of species transported through ballast water is estimated to be more than 10,000 daily.

            Since the 70’s, some countries (e.g. Canada, Australia) have been experiencing some issues with alien species, even though the first recognized introduction, an Asian algae occurred in the North Sea in 1903. In the last 20 years or so, scientists, governments, the community and industry have come to increasingly recognize the issue of transfer of harmful aquatic species and pathogens between ecosystems through ships’ ballast water and sediments. An invasive specie is “a non-native (non-indigenous) specie to the environment or the community that has infringed by intrusion” and whose introduction “causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health”. The main issue linked with the use of ballast water is that organisms (e.g. microorganisms, eggs, cysts, planktonic larvae of larger organisms) may be carried with the water. During the trip, conditions are often harsh (e.g. absence of water, oxygen, temperature change, lack of food), most of them will die. However, some of them, the toughest, will eventually survive and may start to invade a new environment, as they may not have any predators.

            However, it is important to note that even though ballast water is nowadays one of the most important vectors for the transfer of harmful aquatic species, other ways exist (e.g. fouling species on the hulls, release of exotic species by aquarium). The consequences of the introduction of invasive species are various, and can affect the three pillars of sustainable developments.

a.     Consequences on the environment

            Once landed, the new species might turn to be invasive. If so, they will tend to colonize, and thus will modify the original ecological balance and natural biodiversity, as it is often done at the expense of the native species (e.g. pathogen introduction, ability to cohabit with foreign species…). It can therefore affect the species populations, but also the structure of the community or the genetic. Furthermore, the weakening of the specie could ease further invasions, or the genes mix between indigenous and non-indigenous could lead to a more resistant invasive specie prone to quicker colonization. Not only do invasive species alter the biodiversity, they also modify the habitat: they become permanent residents. Once installed, and contrary, for example, to an oil spill, it is virtually impossible to remove an invasive specie from its new environment.

b.     Social effects

            Due to the changes it could lead to, invasive species could modify the habits of a population. It could lead to change in the work type (e.g. disappearance of a fishing community due to the extinction of fishes) and thus the bio-desertification of an area: for example, in the Azov, Black and Caspian Seas, the apparition of the North American Comb jellyfish has depleted the stocks of available fishes (notably anchovy and sprat), and is leading to the collapse of the fishing communities. Furthermore, it could even lead to a change in food habits, for example with the introduction of dangerous specie (e.g. green algae, mussels…).

c.      Economic impacts

            Economic impact of the introduction of an invasive specie can be disastrous. As stated above, it could change the socio-economic aspects of a region. People may be lead to emigrate due to the absence of work. Safety issues need to be dealt with (e.g. Cholera in South America in the 90’s).

            In the U.S., in the Great Lake Region, it has been estimated that invasive species would cost about $200 millions a year. In 2000, it was assessed that the costs links to harmful invasive species was about $138bn yearly in the U.S. alone, without taking into consideration the damages to the ecosystem! On a global basis, UNDP estimates that the annual economic impact is over $100bn.

2.     IMO and GloBallast Partnerships

            IMO and the shipping industry have taken concerted action to find ways to address the issue of transfer of harmful aquatic species and pathogens through ships’ ballast water and sediments. IMO has been working on this issue for more than 15 years, developing two sets of guidelines and devising a new, legally binding international regime to meet the new challenges. In February 2004, the global efforts were rewarded with the adoption of the new International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments (BWM Convention) by its member States.

            The BWMC provides a critically needed set of management tools through which the maritime industry can be regulated in a manner that is predictable, transparent and responsive with regard to environmental benefits, technological achievability and international consistency. The Convention also calls for significant regional cooperation and harmonization of policies to address this transboundary marine environmental issue. Entry into force of the convention needs the ratification of 30 countries representing 35% of the world gross tonnage. At the date of the 30th June 2009, 18 countries representing 15.36% of the world gross tonnage are Parties.

            Developing countries are among the largest “importers” of ballast water due to their significant exports of bulk commodities. Indeed, exports of raw materials and bulk cargoes are in many cases the primary source of revenue fand an important component of their national economies. On the other hand, developing countries are also frequently dependent on their coastal and marine environments as the main source of living for coastal populations and as a major tourist attraction. Countries where ballast water is loaded are also under pressure to see that the ballast is safe enough to be discharged at the destination ports.

            During year 2000, in anticipation of adoption of the new Ballast Water Management Convention, IMO joined forces with the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to implement the Global Ballast Water Management Programme (GloBallast). The Development Objectives of this technical cooperation programme (2000-2004) were to assist developing countries to:

•                  reduce the transfer of harmful aquatic organisms and pathogens in ships’ ballast water,

•                  implement the then existing IMO Guidelines, and

•                  prepare for the implementation of a new Ballast Water Convention.

            The Pilot Programme aimed to achieve these objectives through six initial demonstration sites, located in six Pilot Countries (Brazil, China, India, I.R. Iran, South Africa and Ukraine) representing the main developing regions of the world. Different activities were conducted until 2004.

            During the 49th Session of IMO’s Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC), after noting the information paper by the IMO Secretariat on the GloBallast Pilot Phase status and achievements, the Committee requested the Secretariat to re-approach GEF and other donors with a view to explore the possibility of continuing the technical co-operation activities initiated during the GloBallast Pilot Phase. In response, in September 2003, the IMO Secretariat submitted a Concept Paper to GEF for the second phase of GloBallast, titled GloBallast Partnership (Building Partnerships to Assist Developing Countries to Reduce the Transfer of Harmful Aquatic Organisms in Ships’ Ballast Water). Subsequently, in April 2005 GEF approved a preparatory grant (PDF-B) for the Secretariat to develop a full-scale project document. A Project Coordination Unit (PCU) was established within the IMO Marine Environment Division to execute the PDF-B Project.

            The PDF-B project developed the full-size Project Document for GloBallast Partnerships (GBP), in consultation with the IMO Member States, other Key Stakeholders and Strategic Partners and mobilized significant co-financing for the execution of the Project. The full-size Project Proposal was approved by the GEF Council in July 2007 and subsequently was endorsed by the GEF CEO on 31 August 2007. Upon receiving the delegation of authority from GEF to execute the Project, IMO Secretariat, on 17 September 2007, concluded the Project Execution agreement with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which is the implementing partner for this Project.

            GloBallast Partnerships project (GBP) builds on the pilot phase and will focus on the implementation of the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and sediments (BWM Convention) by assisting developing countries to enact legal, policy and institutional reforms to minimize the impacts of aquatic invasive species transferred by ships. This is a five-year project (2008-2012) with a total budget of US$23 million out of which US$5.64 million represents the GEF grant, the rest being mostly in-kind contributions from the participating countries, regional co-ordinating organizations  (RCO) and strategic partners, including the private sector.

            The Project assists 13 Lead Partnering Countries (LPC) from 5 high priority sub-regions, namely Caribbean, Mediterranean, Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, the Pacific coast of South America, and the West Coast of Africa. In addition, all member countries in the five sub-regions who have officially expressed interest in participating in the Project are invited to participate in the regional capacity building activities. Specific regional capacity building activities for South Pacific region have also been planned in the Project. Also, linkages will be established with the six pilot countries of the pilot phase (Phase I) whose expertise and capacities will be drawn on for this global effort. Linkages will also be established to work cooperatively with the on-going GEF efforts in Caspian and Baltic region to address the issue of invasive species.

            The specific objectives of this new phase of the GloBallast project are:

•                  to identify and agree upon the most appropriate strategies and actions required to reduce the rate of aquatic bio-invasions caused by invasive species transferred in ships’ ballast water;

•                  to provide technical assistance to implement legal, policy and institutional reforms at national level to minimize the adverse impacts of aquatic invasive species in ships’ ballast water;

•                  to use existing co-operative mechanisms and suitable partnerships to ensure financial sustainability for the control and management of ships’ ballast water and sediments and for the effective involvement of the relevant stakeholders;

•                  to mainstream and integrate ballast water management into a broader effort to control invasive aquatic species at the Large Marine Ecosystems (LME) level; and

•                  to develop an institutional and procedural approach for monitoring and evaluation of ballast water management and control measures.

            The objectives of GBP are a logical expansion of the pilot phase, with a greater focus on legal, policy and institutional reforms in targeted developing countries and more emphasis on integrated management. The project is designed to build on the lessons learned during the pilot phase and is based on the principle of “on the ground” implementation. A number of activities particularly successful in the initial phase, such as the introductory training programme for ballast water management, will be replicated in new regions. The project will ensure a globally uniform approach and, to the extent possible, global coverage of the developing regions of the world.

            With the help of tools developed and lessons learned from the pilot project, GBP will expand government and port management capacities, and drive regional coordination and cooperation. The project will spur global efforts to design and test technology solutions, and will enhance global knowledge management to address the issue. The partnership effort is three-tiered, involving global, regional and country-specific partners, representing government, industry and non-governmental organizations.

            As a pioneering initiative within the project framework, private sector participation will be achieved through establishing a GloBallast Industry Alliance (GIA) for Marine Biosafety with partners from major maritime companies. GIA’s main objective will be to minimize and ultimately eliminate the transfer of harmful and invasive organisms via ships and maximizing global environmental benefits from addressing this issue in a sustainable and cost-effective manner through enhanced partnership between public sector and the maritime industry. The alliance was established on March 2, 2009, with BP Shipping, Vela Marine International, Daewoo Ship Building, and APL.

            GBP has become operational with effect from 1st January 2008 and a PCU at IMO Secretariat has been established. Implementation of the Project will be coordinated through a Project implementation team consisting of the PCU at IMO, RCO in the respective regions and the Project Lead Agencies who have nominated the National Project Focal Points (NFP) and National Project Coordinators (NPC) in the respective Lead Partnering and Partnering countries (LPC and PC). The Project implementation activities at various levels will be undertaken by the project implementation team with the advise, guidance and support of a Global Project Task Force (GPTF), Regional Task Forces (RTF) and National Task Forces (NTF) established through extensive consultation with all the relevant stakeholders involved in this issue at global, regional and national level.

            A full description of the GEF / UNDP / IMO Project Building partnerships to assist developing countries to reduce the transfer of harmful aquatic organisms in ships’ ballast water (Globallast Partnerships) is contained in the UNDP Project Document which can be downloaded from the GEF website.


II. GloBallast Partnerships in the Wider Caribbean Region

            Due to the presence of many developing countries, and a production mainly based on its coastal resources (e.g. tourism, fisheries), the region, which has an extremely sensitive environment (e.g. mangrove, coral reef) and a high biodiversity, is particularly at risk from invasive aquatic species (IAS). A few countries are also exporting raw resources (e.g. crude oil) or refined products, and are consequently importers of large amount of BW. For example, we can quote Venezuela or Central American countries… In 2005, 13M metric tons of water were discharged in the Gulf (50% international) and 6M in the Caribbean (84% foreign water). It is also important to keep in mind that due to maritime traffic patterns and the overall surface of the WCR, complying with IMO Guidelines (ballast water exchange at sea, 200 nautical miles from the coasts) is hardly feasible.

            But ballast water is not the only vector for the regional transfer of species, and we can also quote hull fouling and  the presence of platforms (oil rigs) in the region are potentially dangerous. The Panama canal, for example, has an annual traffic of 14,000 ships, and that may double in 10-15 years. There is currently about 3,600 platforms in the Gulf of Mexico only... To underline the sensibility of the region and its reliance on coastals resources, here are some of the figures that can be found in the literature are:

•                  In 2004, more than 2.4 million people were employed either directly or indirectly in travel and tourism, accounting for 15.5% of total employment, a proportion nearly twice as high as the global average.

•                  Tourism contributes an estimated US$105 billion annually to the Caribbean economy.

•                  In at least 8 Caribbean countries, tourism accounts for over 30% of the GDP.

•                  Over one fifth (21.7%) of all capital investment was linked to tourism, well over twice the global average.

•                  In 2000, approximately 1.2 million divers visited the Caribbean.

•                  In 2000, the net benefits from dive tourism total was estimated to be US$2.1 billion per year with US$625 million spent directly on diving on reefs , with divers typically spending 60-80 percent more than other tourists.

•                  The average diver spends about US$2,100 per trip to the Caribbean compared to US$1,200 by the regular tourist.

•                  Consumption of fish in the Caribbean is higher than local production and has to be satisfied by high levels of imports, for example percent seafood imported in Haiti (70%), Jamaica (78%), and Martinique (80%).

•                  Average per capita consumption of fish in the Caribbean is 19kg, which is above the world average of 16kg.

•                  Total imports of fish are valued at US$410 million annually in the Caribbean.

•                  Export products are dominated by high-value commodities like shrimp, spiny-lobster, tuna, snapper, grouper and queen conch, which command premium prices in the market, generating US$1.2 billion annually.

•                  Employment is one of the most important roles of the fishing industry, with over 200,000 direct employees and 100,000 indirectly employed (boat maintenance, processing, net making industries, etc).

•                  With respect to fisheries, the number of people actively involved increased from 194,278 in the 1970s to 256,787 in the 1980s and to 504,910 in the 1900s, which is of the same magnitude as the number of jobs produced by tourism.

•                  Export products are dominated by high-value commodities like shrimp, spiny-lobster, tuna, snapper, grouper and queen conch, which command premium prices in the market, generating US$1.2 billion annually.

            IAS have the potential to threaten tourist and fishing activities. For example, the lionfish, originally from the Indian and Pacific Oceans, is currently spreading throughout the Caribbean Sea, and endangering native biodiversity. According to certain experts, it may be one of the most devastating marine invasions of history, and is virtually unstoppable.

            CAB International realized for UNEP's Caribbean Environment Program a study on marine invasive species in the WCR. It was concluded that at least 118 IAS were present in the marine environment.

            In the Caribbean, countries were classified (non statically) as following, accordingly to the support they provided to the project before its endorsement:

Lead partner countries: Venezuela, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Bahamas

Current Partners (GEF eligible & endorsed GBP): Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda*, Barbados*, Belize, Costa Rica, Haiti, Cuba, Dominica, Guatemala, Mexico*

Other GEF eligible: Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Honduras, Nicaragua, St. Kitts and Nevis*, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Grenadines, Suriname

Non-GEF eligible: USA, UK, France*, Dutch Kingdom

* Party to the 2004 BW Convention as at 30 June 2009

            Colombia and Panama were considered as part of the South East Pacific region (SEPR), which RCO is the Comisión Permanente del Pacifico Sur (CPPS) based in Ecuador. However, REMPEITC has interactions also with these two countries.

            Different activities have already occurred in the region:

·                    2006: Participation of RAC/REMPEITC to the GloBallast – Global Project Task Force (GPTF) Meeting in London

·              2006: Workshop “Management of invasive species in marine and coastal environments” in Panama City, Panama hosted by the Secretariat of the Action plan for the North East Pacific (Antigua Convention). Thirty one persons attended the workshop, included representatives of Panama, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico and Colombia, UNEP CAR/RCU, RAC/REMPEITC and COCATRAM.

·                  2007: International workshop “Mitigating threats of invasive alien species in the insular Caribbean” in Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago hosted by CAB International. Countries participating were: Bahamas, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, and Trinidad & Tobago. Organizations participating were:  Biodiversity International (Latin America & Caribbean), CABI, CARDI, Caribbean Forest Conservation Association, CARINET/CaripestNet, CERMES, COPE-Council of Presidents of the Environment, IICA Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture, Institute of Jamaica, FAO, IMO / REMPEITC, InGrip-Consulting & Animal Control, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, STENAPA, The Nature Conservancy, Trust for Sustainable Livelihoods, Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University, University of Florida, University of West Indies, USDA-APHIS Caribbean Area.

·                  2007 and 2008: Realization of workshop on the Annex V of international convention MARPOL 73/78 and presentation of the BBC Worldwide and IMO Production documentary Invaders from the seas to representatives from Saint Lucia, Barbados, Dominica, St. Kitts & Nevis, Antigua & Barbuda, St Lucia, St Maarten, Turks and Caicos, Bonaire, Curacao, El Salvador, Saba, Suriname. Presence of IMO, REMPEITC and UNEP CAR/RCU.

·                  2008: Organization by REMPEITC of an “Introductory BWM Course” in Jamaica. Participants included representatives from the Bahamas, Colombia, Cuba, Jamaica, Netherlands Antilles, Panama, Trinidad & Tobago and IMO.

·                   2008: Participation of REMPEITC to the GPTF in London

·                  2008: Organization by REMPEITC of national workshops in Colombia, the Bahamas and Trinidad & Tobago to facilitate the creation of a National Task Force.

·                  2009: Organization by REMPEITC of a training course on Port Biological Baseline Surveys in Colombia, in cooperation with CPPS. Delegates from Colombia, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Venezuela, Peru, Chile, Panama, Argentina and Ecuador were present.

·                  2009: Organization by REMPEITC of the first GloBallast Regional Task Force (RTF_WCR) Meeting and a regional training course on the legal implementation of the BWM Convention in Panama. Most of the Countries were present, and the Meeting instructed RAC/REMPEITC, as secretariat of the RTF-WCR, to reorganize elements for the establishment of a regional strategy. During the Fourteenth Intergovernmental Meeting on the Action Plan for the Caribbean Environment Programme and Eleventh Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment of the Wider Caribbean Region, the result of this Meeting was presented: document in English and in Spanish.

·                  2010: Participation to the Regional Training Course on the legal implementation of the BWM Convention for Central America Countries organized by COCATRAM. RAC/REMPEITC presented the regional strategy and its action plan, and invited all represented countries to implement it as soon as possible by developing their National Task Forces.


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