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  Mar. 3 --A GLOBAL Industry Alliance (GIA) has been launched to tackle the threats of marine bio-invasions caused by the transfer of alien plants and animals in ships' ballast tanks.

The Alliance, made up of an “innovative partnership” between IMO, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and four major private shipping corporations, says it aims to harness the different skills and expertise brought by these groups in order to develop concrete solutions to this global environmental hazard.

The agreement signed yesterday at the Headquarters of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in London, forming the GIA was initiated by GloBallast Partnerships - a joint initiative founded by IMO, UNDP and GEF. The Alliance is hosted by IMO in London. To date, four major shipping corporations - APL, BP Shipping, Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering, and Vela Marine International - have signed on to this partnership. IMO says that more shipping corporations have expressed their interest to join.

IMO says that an estimated 10 billion tonnes of ballast water are being carried around the globe each year, and more than 3,000 species of plants and animals are being transferred daily. As a result, a serious environmental threat has developed, caused by the introduction of alien aquatic plants and animals to new ecosystems, which may not be able to deal with the imported species. The damage done by these alien species is costing the world billions of dollars.

The Alliance will contribute to research and development of cost effective ballast water treatment technologies that can be fitted onboard ships. In addition, it will assist with exploring new ship design options such as 'flow thru' ballast tanks and 'ballast-free ships'. The Alliance aims to promote the transfer and diffusion of technology within the industry by opening a ballast water information exchange mechanism, developing training tools targeted at the maritime industry and establishing an industry dialogue forum.
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