Ballast Water Regulations



The new Ballast Water Regulations aim to reduce the spread of aquatic invasive species within Canada, as well as their transfer from Canada to other countries, and to help protect global biodiversity.

The new regulations mark a transition from the traditional method of ballast water management (the exchange of ballast water in mid-ocean) to the use of modern ballast water management systems (which clean ballast water of organisms before release).

Canadian ships travelling abroad and those coming into Canada from abroad are now required to meet standards by 2024. Canadian vessels that do not voyage internationally, other than to U.S. Great Lakes ports, need to meet the new standards depending on when they were built:

  • all newly built vessels will have to meet standards at launch.
  • existing Great Lakes and Canadian domestic vessels built before 2009 will be required to meet standards by 2030.
  • all other existing vessels built in or after 2009 will be required to meet standards by 2024.

To increase environmental protection for sensitive Canadian fresh waters, vessels arriving in these waters from another country (other than from U.S. Great Lakes waters) will exchange their ballast water in mid-ocean in addition to using a ballast water management system.

Ballast water and the Great Lakes

The regulations apply to all Canada’s marine environments, including the Great Lakes, which are shared by Canada and the U.S. Although the U.S. has not joined the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments, 2004, both countries co-operate in this region under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, aiming to have compatible regulations.

Great Lakes ballast water can be difficult to manage because the lakes are cold, fresh, and mixed with sediment. Despite this, the use of ballast water management systems in these waters substantially reduces environmental risks. As needed, ballast water taken on board in these areas is considered to meet standards when a suitable system is installed on time and properly used and maintained.

U.S. engagement and alignment

Canada has taken ongoing U.S. regulatory processes into account while developing the new regulations and envisions increased regulatory compatibility over time. Canada will continue to work with the U.S. towards binational compatibility to strengthen protection of our shared waters and facilitate vessel compliance.

U.S. vessels will be required to follow the same rules as Canadian vessels when doing business in Canada which involves taking ballast water onboard or releasing it. However, Canada will not regulate U.S. vessels which only pass through Canadian waters while travelling between U.S. ports without taking on or releasing ballast water.

By implementing these new regulations, the Government of Canada is ensuring that ballast water poses the lowest possible risk to our local and global environment and economy.

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