Tanker ballast waters are threatening the entire world!

Tanker ballast water is the seawater that tankers withdraw from the bow or sides when they are empty or loaded. With the help of this water taken from the sea, the balance of cargo and ship can be maintained. Every day thousands of tankers draw millions of cubic meters and carry it from one place to another. And the problem starts from here. Undesired marine organisms, pollutants and bacteria-ridden waters are poured from one continent or sea to others. It is estimated that every day, 3000 sea creatures are transported from one region to another via ballast waters.

These ballast waters from petrol tanks are especially an important issue and topic for discussion in the marine and science world as they pour their ballast waters in proportion to their size and volume. After long term studies, it has been proven that these ballast waters cause serious threats to ecology. International Maritime Organization focused on this issue and published a decision regarding tanker ballast waters in November 1997. This decision has included obligatory ballast water plans and analysis of the water from any kind of ship, as well as explanations on controls and risks to harbor countries. According to this decision, harbor officers and staff can inspect any ship that entered their harbor about the origin of ballast water and its analysis.

This new progress is vital for announcing the environmental risks that 50.000 ships possess during their passage from Turkish Straits and evidence piles up each day. All the Black Sea Countries (including Turkey), is being negatively affected by sea walnut (Mnemiopsis leidyi) carried by tanker ballast water from North America to the Black Sea. This sea walnut has no natural enemy so it rapidly reproduces and reaches a million tons of live mass. Sea walnut causes a decline of commercial fish stocks such as anchovy, bluefin, acorn, bonito, etc. Turkey loses at least 400 million dollars due to this. Another example is the mussel known as Dreissena polymorpha. They cling to sea vessels and cause million-dollar damages. Moreover, Northern Sea Star, known as Asterias amurensis severely damaged the fish beds of Australia and resulted in obligatory control of tanker ballast waters.

It is also possible that single-celled organisms that are venomous in the seas can get carried by tanker ballast waters from one place to another. These venomous single-celled organisms can cause mass mortality, especially in crustaceans.

Since 1997, countries like America, Australia and England inspect the petrol tanks and big cargo ships in their harbor to determine and control undesirable marine creatures. As a result of those inspections, special quarantines are implemented on ships that can be dangerous or come from polluted areas.

Turkey is under the threat of undesirable negative impacts of tanker ballast water. Large numbers of ships come from the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, take petrol from the Black Sea and leave it in the Turkish Harbors. For this reason, aside from risks like accidents, Turkish waters are under the threat of petrol shipping, also dangerous to the animals, and can amount to ecological sabotage in Turkish waters. Ballast waters of tankers visiting Turkish harbors should be inspected as soon as possible and national standards on ballast water should be developed. Furthermore, publications should be developed with the aim of raising awareness, and technical experts should be employed on the subject.

We should bear in mind that protection of Turkish Seas and our approach to the environmental protection of our straits can only be successful with serious and genuine studies. Without conducting a scientific study and collecting data on an international level, we can contribute to protecting neither our strait nor our seas and we cannot convince anyone of our political and legal demands.