Ballast Water

​​Ballast water is port water that is taken up by ships. It may be held in tanks on board to improve stability, even out vessel stresses and adjust vessel draft, list and trim. Ballasting is an essential part of maintaining a vessels safe operation and is vital to most cargo loading and unloading activities.

It is believed that ballast water is responsible for about 20-30 percent of all marine pest incursions into the Australian marine environment. When ballast water from foreign waters is released into Australia, live marine organisms that it contains, may establish exotic colonies.

Ballast water of international vessels is regulated by the Australian Government.

It is a requirement that all high risk ballast water tanks undergo a deep ocean exchange, outside the 12 nm limit, prior to arrival in Australian ports or waters. This also applies to any towed vessel with the capacity to hold ballast.

The department will undertake ballast water management verifications prior to arrival and on board as part of the Pratique or first port inspection. Masters should be aware that suitably qualified ships personnel may be required to assist with the verification process.

Barges and other vessels with limited ballast pumping capabilities should take note of the guidelines below.

To negate the need to exchange ballast, it is recommended that ballast tanks are filled with potable municipal water prior to leaving port.

Evidence of the water source must be provided to the department on request in the form of a declaration by the port Authority or facility operator, where this activity has been undertaken, on business letterhead signed and dated by the responsible organisations manager or supervisor. An accompanying invoice is also recommended to be attached.

Reporting Requirements

  • Quarantine Pre-Arrival Report (QPAR) –Question 9 ‘Is the vessel in compliance with the Australian Ballast Water Management Requirements?’ seeks information about ballast water management where a Yes or No answer is required.
  • Vessels are not permitted to discharge ballast water in Australian waters until department officers have conducted a ballast log verification and confirm that appropriate ballast exchanges have been conducted. Ballast verification can occur prior to arrival by submitting a Ballast Water Ballast Summary Sheet to the Maritime National Co-ordination centre for assessment 12 – 96 hours prior to arrival or alternatively an onboard verification can be conducted following vessel arrival. Vessels cannot discharge ballast water without written permission from the department.
  • Ballast Water Management Summary Sheet – Vessels must retain all ballast water records in the Ballast Water Management Summary Sheet and any relevant vessel logbooks, and make these available to department officers on request.

Refer to the Guide to Ballast Water Reporting Forms for information on completing the reporting requirements.

For more information on how to comply with quarantine requirements for ballast water refer to the Australian Ballast Water Management Requirements Version 5.
Last reviewed:
25 Feb 2015