Ukrainian ballast problems

INTERTANKO has again been informed by members in the past two weeks of an increase in the imposition of fines by the State Inspectorate for the Protection of the Black Sea (SIPBS). Incidents in the Ports of Odessa, Ilychevsk and Yuzhny have been recorded, all based on the same principles issued by the SIPBS.


Ships are requested to exchange their ballast in the Black Sea prior to entering and discharging ballast water in Ukrainian ports. All ships are then subjected to ballast water sampling by inspectors from the SIPBS. The samples are then tested against a ballast water quality threshold for three pollutants – oil products 0.05mg/litre, iron 0.05mg/litre, suspended solids 0.75mg/litre or 2mg/litre depending on the regulatory source.


One of the main concerns relates to the process for objecting to such fines. In the event that one of the three contaminants in the ballast water is found to be above the specified level, a master is offered by the inspectors the option of sailing out beyond the 12-mile zone to exchange ballast – an option that he is unlikely to take up. Even the inspectors should recognise that this would incur commercial costs related to time delays and may cause the vessel to lose its berthing slot in the port. This, therefore, is not a realistic option for the master.


Some members have contested the results of the testing and have requested an independent analysis to be undertaken. This, we are led to believe, can only take place at a laboratory which meets with the SIPBS requirements. Companies that have instructed masters to take independent samples, which have subsequently been tested in laboratories outside the Ukraine, have been able to demonstrate a variance between the SIPBS results and the independent test results.


INTERTANKO suggests that a more effective, transparent and independent process for filing an objection by the ship's master should be established - one which allows for a standard procedure for testing to also be established and for any independent laboratory to follow this procedure, if necessary. Furthermore, it would be worthwhile considering an option which does not cause any undue delay to the ship.


Since 2001, INTERTANKO has been receiving reports from our members relating to the problem described. Lately the reports have become more frequent. Our previous repeated communications have yielded disappointing results with only one response from the SIPBS Chief in December 2001 in which the justification for carrying out such inspections was based on the 'Aquatic Code of Ukraine'. It did not allude to the problems which INTERTANKO raised in relation to the methods being used to implement the Code.


INTERTANKO’s concerns, as summarised below, have been brought to the attention of the Ukrainian Embassy in the United Kingdom on advice taken from INTERTANKO’s contacts at the Maritime Ministry in the Ukraine.


  1. Ballast samples are taken and tested without clear grounds being established that a ship has not already undertaken ballast water exchange.
  2. Ballast water exchange, if undertaken as per the IMO guidelines, will greatly reduce any risk of invasive species or other pollutants being discharged from other coastal areas and should therefore be considered the best available option for environmental protection in the short to medium term.
  3. Even when ballast water exchange has been carried out as required, more often than not, the test results show that the ballast does not meet the discharge standards, which clearly indicates that the limits set are unachievable.
  4. No independent and transparent system for objecting to the test results is in operation.


Members are advised to inform INTERTANKO of any further cases of what they consider to be unwarranted penalties.


Contact: Tim Wilkins