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Orkney Islands Council Marine Services’ Revised Ballast Water Management Policy

posted on 2023-05-25, 04:00 authored by Pitts, M, Hossein EnshaeiHossein Enshaei


Orkney Islands Council (OIC) Marine Services is responsible for the safe, environmentally acceptable and economically viable operation of the 29 piers and harbours located in the Orkney Islands, including Scapa Flow. There has in the past few years, been an increasing focus on the use of Scapa Flow as a base for ship to ship (STS) oil transfers.

Loading of a ship with cargo involves the displacement and consequent discharge of ballast water carried by ships to maintain stability when not loaded with cargo. Due to the risks associated with its discharge to receiving waters in terms of pollution and introduction of non-native species and pathogens, strict control has to date been placed on ballast water discharge within Scapa Flow, such that according to the current operating procedure, oil tankers engaging in ship to ship transfer must periodically halt transfer, move out of the Flow and discharge some/all ballast, before returning to resume loading of cargo. This imposes considerable costs on ship operators in terms of time and fuel and has prompted a call for the ballast water management (BWM) policy to be changed. If changed, the revised policy will apply until such time as the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Ballast Water Convention1 enters into force (2016 at the earliest).


To comply with section 5(4) of the Environmental Assessment Act2 , to integrate environmental considerations into decision making, and to facilitate openness and transparency, a strategic environmental assessment (SEA) of the alternative BWM approaches was carried out. To also take economic and social factors into account, a high level sustainability appraisal (SA) of the approaches in combination with potential business plan scenarios has also been undertaken. This Environmental Report reports separately on both the SEA and SA aspects of the assessment, the outcomes of which have been integral in selecting an appropriate BWM policy to protect the environmental resources of Scapa Flow while enabling the commercial potential of the harbour to be optimised with economic and social benefits. Alternative BWM approaches ranged from no ballast water control to complete prohibition of discharge within Scapa Flow, and included consideration of the provisions of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Convention despite the fact that the Convention has yet to enter into force. The current situation, in which all ships except certain gas tankers are prohibited from discharging ballast water within Scapa Flow, was included as an alternative.


Commissioning body

Orkney Islands Council Marine Services, UK




Australian Maritime College


Orkney Islands Council Marine Services, UK

Place of publication

United Kingdom

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Marine biodiversity

Usage metrics

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