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Ballasting / deballasting guideline for bulk carriers

Seagoing bulk carriers when not carrying cargo or is lightly loaded, sufficient ballast must be carried to ensure that the ship’s stress, stability, draft, trim and propeller immersion is within permissible limits to guarantee the safe handling of the vessel in the prevailing or expected conditions. In meeting these parameters the vessel must comply, at least, with the requirements of the IMO, Class (especially appendix to Class Certificate) and Port State Authorities.



In 1993 IMO adopted Resolution A.774 (18) “Guidelines for Preventing the Introduction of Unwanted Aquatic Organisms and Pathogens from Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediment Discharges”. Masters are to ensure compliance with them.

Ballast operations must always be carried out within the capabilities of the vessel and its systems.


Designated officer

The Chief Officer is designated to carry out these procedures and maintain all records as required. The Master is to ensure the Chief Officer is familiar with the requirements of this section including IMO Guidelines. The Master must also ensure that all the crew members are given the instruction and are aware of the need for ballast water control procedures and the procedures being adopted on board.


Planning of the ballast operations

Ballast operations are always to be planned in advance by the Chief Officer and entered in the Cargo Loading and Discharge Plan. The plan is to be approved by the Master prior to commencing the operation.

Each vessel must produce a standard plan for a complete change of ballast.


Records and reporting

When taking on ballast waters, the date and time of commencement and completion of the ballast operation, ship’s position, salinity (specific gravity) and amount of ballast water taken onboard must be recorded in the ship’s Deck Log Book.

A report in the format shown in the appendix to IMO Guidelines must be completed by the Master and made available to the Port State Authority on request. Analysis certificates, ballast reports and shore receipts must always be kept on board in a separate file.

When the Port State Authority water ballast control requirements (e.g. exchange of ballast at sea) cannot be met during the voyage due to weather condition, operational impracticability, etc, the Master must report this fact to the Company and the prospective Port State Authority prior to entering its national waters (economical zone), so that appropriate alternative action can be arranged.


Controls applied by port state authorities

The Master is to check in advance with the local agent, and the latest Port Guide, for any information on ballast water sediment discharge procedures, being applied by the State Authorities at an expected port of call. These procedures may include, but are not limited, the following control actions:


Failure to comply with national requirements may lead to unnecessary delays for the ship. In some cases penalties may be applied by Ports State Authorities. The vessel may be required to proceed to an approved location to carry out the necessary exchange, seal the ballast tanks against discharge in the Port State’s waters, pump the ballast water to shore reception facilities, or prove, by laboratory analysis, that the ballast water is acceptable.


Loading of ballast water

When loading ballast every effort is to be made to ensure only clean ballast is being taken onboard and the intake of sediment is minimised. Where practicable, vessels are to avoid taking on ballast water in shallow water areas or in the vicinity of dredging operations.

Vessels must not ballast if at all practicable in areas where there is a known outbreak of water communicable diseases or where phytoplankton blooms are occurring.

It is recognised however, that when vessels trade to river or estuary ports, intake of some silts and sediment is unavoidable. In such situations the amount of silt taken on board can often be substantially reduced by planning to ballast on the flood tide when the suspended silt levels are normally lower.

Vessels taking on ballast in river or estuary waters or any other areas where the purity of the water is in doubt, including areas of probable contamination from chemicals, disease, pathogens etc. must follow the control procedures .

When ballast has been loaded in silted or otherwise polluted water, the ballast is to be changed as soon as possible after leaving that port. It is also essential that this is carried out to prevent the build up of mud in ballast tanks which may reduce the vessels cargo lifting capacity.

Whenever possible the initial filling of the ballast tanks should be run in from the sea by gravity, in preference to pumping it in. In general, ballast tanks are to be filled to 100% capacity, but not be overflowed.


Discharge of ballast water

No ballast is to be discharged in the continental shelf, coastal or port waters where ballast water and sediment control measures are being applied by State Authorities, the ballast water and sediment control procedures have been followed, or acceptable alternatives have been adopted.

The effectiveness of the vessels procedures may be verified by Port State Authorities taking samples of ballast water and/or sediments from the vessel, to test for the continued survival of unwanted aquatic organisms and pathogens. Such samples may also be taken from suction wells, chain lockers and other areas where sediment may accumulate. In certain cases discharge of ballast will not be permitted until analysis of such samples is completed. The Master is to ensure that relevant written authorisation is obtained from the Port Authority prior to discharging any ballast to coastal waters of any country that exercises ballast control measures.

Shortly after commencement and during discharge of any ballast overboard the surface of the sea is to be checked frequently to guard against accidental pollution.



Related guideline

  1. How to prevent water hammer and surging during regular ballast operations ?


  2. Ballasting by gravity, by water ballst pumps & priming procedure


  3. De- Ballasting by gravity, by water ballst pumps & priming procedure


  4. Ballast exchange procedure at sea


  5. Practical method for the control of transportation of harmful marine organisms


  6. Safety precautions during ballast operation


  7. Loading of high density cargo and water ballast distribution for bulk carriers


  8. Regulation of pumping system of bulk carriers


  9. Regulation of pumping system of bulk carriers


  10. Cargo and ballast handling guide

  11. Risk of partially filled ballast tanks


  12. Handling water ingress problems in bulk carrier, investigation and countermeasures

Reference publications

  1. MARPOL 73/78
  2. IMO Resolution A.774 (18) – “Guidelines for Preventing the Introduction of Unwanted Aquatic Organisms and Pathogens from Ship’s Ballast Water and Sediment Discharged”
  3. Ship’s “Procedure and Arrangements manual” (Approved by Class)
  4. Guide to Port Entry
  5. US NPDES Vessel General Permit Compliance Manual
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