New regulation on ballast water treatment
The Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development has issued a new regulation addressing ballast water treatment for vessels arriving from foreign ports. Pursuant to Regulation 85-E/2017, vessels calling at Argentine ports must apply a chlorination process to their ballast tanks as a measure to prevent the introduction of invasive aquatic species that could affect river ecosystems in Argentina.
In addition to the new regulation, two other primary regulations address ballast water treatment:
- Coastguard Regulation 7/98 establishes that all vessels arriving from foreign ports must deballast before entering the Rio de la Plata. This regulation refers to an area determined by the treaty between Argentina and Uruguay regarding the maritime boundary in which there is an absolute prohibition against deballasting. This area is determined by four waypoints as follows: Punta del Este – Uruguay/latitude 36º 14′ s longitude 53º 32′ w/latitude 37º 32′ s longitude 55º 23′ w/Punta Rasa (Argentina). Further, according to the regulation, a salinity level lower than 30 parts per thousand (30 milligrams per cubic centimetre) in the ballast water will not be accepted after being changed. If the measurements made on the samples indicate a lower salinity level, the ballast water exchange operation will be considered not to have been performed satisfactorily or to have been carried out too close to the Rio de la Plata.
- Coastguard Regulation 12/98 establishes certain protected areas in southern Argentina (Patagonia) where deballasting is prohibited.
The new regulation makes no reference to ballast water exchange. However, it stipulates that Regulation 7/98 – requiring ballast exchange – must be followed. This regulation creates uncertainty in cases where vessels arriving from Brazilian ports must divert to high seas to proceed with ballast exchange before heading to the Rio de la Plata. It could be argued that ballast exchange would not be necessary if chlorination is applied. However, the chlorination process will bring more issues, as it is unclear as to who should chlorinate the tanks. The current regulation posits only that it must be done at roads on arrival, but does not clarify whether it could be pursued by the crew or a local entity.
This regulation is intended as a preliminary stage to the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments, to which Argentina is party by Act 27.011/2014 and which will enter into force on September 8 2017. In the meantime, the Coastguard is expected to review its own regulations following the rules from the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development in order to bring more certainty to deballasting operations.