Managing ballast water

Every vessel entering waters under Canada’s jurisdiction is responsible for managing its ballast water properly. Discharging ballast water properly prevents non-native bacteria, plants and animal species from being released into Canada’s waters.

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Ballast water

Ballast water is critical for the safe operation of vessels, adding weight so a vessel rides at just the right depth of water and remains even and stable as it floats. Ballasting is essential if a vessel is carrying a heavy load in one hold and a lighter load in another, or when the vessel is empty or if it faces rough seas.

When vessels need ballast, they pump water into the ballast water tanks, which adds weight to key parts of the vessel. They pump it out and discharge it into receiving waters when they no longer need it or if they need to lighten their weight.

Ballast water may contain bacteria and other microbes, micro-algae and aquatic plant and animal species from the source waters. When ballast water is released, it also releases these organisms into the receiving waters. Vessels travelling in Canadian waters carry thousands of tonnes of ballast water annually, making Canada vulnerable to the introduction of non-native species from discharged ballast water.

National and international ballast water rules

To prevent ecological/environmental problems resulting from the discharge of ballast water, rules have been drafted by Transport Canada and also by the International Maritime Organization (IMO):

Canadian Ballast Water Program

For details on the issues surrounding ballast water and how they are being addressed by Canada, visit the Canadian Ballast Water Program section of this website, which outlines:

  • ballast water management
  • ship-mediated introductions
  • alien invasive species
  • public education and outreach