Completing management options in the Baltic Sea Region to reduce risk of invasive species introduction by shipping

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Invasive alien species (IAS) pose a grave threat to the biodiversity of ecosystems, potentially causing both ecological and financial damage. Given that invasive alien species are primarily transported between maritime regions by global shipping traffic, the growth in cargo transport and tourism has resulted in an increased risk of harmful aquatic organisms and pathogen spreading. The maritime traffic sector must thus do more to prevent the spread of introduced species.

Implementing the Ballast Water Management Convention in the Baltic Sea Region requires more accurate data

The International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) Ballast Water Management Convention (BWMC), which entered into force in 2017, constitutes a significant step towards better invasive alien species management also in the Baltic Sea. The member states of the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (HELCOM) have agreed on common rules, including as regards the exemptions contained in the Convention. However, the selection of so-called target species as well as species mapping and identification in ports requires expertise, and the spread of a species into new regions due to human activities is likely to be both irreversible and unpredictable. The derogations and waivers allowed for by the Convention necessitate more rigorous definitions for target  species as well as updated risk assessments.

Stowaways on ship hulls

In addition to ballast water, invasive alien species may also hitch a ride on ships’ hulls. Such fouling species can be combatted by cleaning the bottoms of ships or using anti-fouling agents.

The control of fouling species is currently carried out on a voluntary basis, with the substantial fuel savings enabled by cleaning the bottoms of vessels constituting a powerful incentive. Cleaning processes may, however, release harmful substances such as copper, or introduced species into the water. What is more, the regulations and practices governing in-water cleaning vary across the Baltic Sea Region, thus increasing the risk of introduced species spreading into the port where the cleaning takes place.

Risk assessments regarding fouling species are currently insufficient, and more information is required e.g. on the number of species, cleaning methods suitable for Baltic Sea conditions, anti-fouling systems, the cost-effectiveness of different methods, the quantities and processing of generated waste, and the role of small vessels and trailers as possible carriers of invasive alien species.

Wide-ranging cooperation on introduced species among Baltic Sea Region countries

The number of introduced species is also an indicator of the state of the sea in the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD). In order to implement assessment and monitoring activities, practices must be harmonised and data resources shared. Increasing the availability of data and implementing an early-warning system (EWS) for introduced species in the Baltic Sea helps control introduced species and allows for timely action in their prevention.

EUSBSR flagship project COMPLETE (Completing management options in the Baltic Sea Region to reduce risk of invasive species introduction by shipping) aims to improve introduced species control in the Baltic Sea region, in response to the above challenges. The project provides fertile ground for international cooperation, as its developers and partners represent all Baltic Sea countries. Improved methods of combatting and controlling invasive alien species can only be developed by cooperating and harmonising practices across the entire Baltic Sea Region.

Project funding

Funding is provided by the Interreg Baltic Sea Region programme, and its total budget is 3.23 million euros.

Read more: Complete official homepage and twitter feed.

Project partners





Main photo: Sergej Olenin, Klaipeda University

SAVE THE DATE: COMPLETE Stakeholder Conference on 4-5 December 2019

Stakeholder conference

Towards solutions for sustainable shipping and boating: better biofouling and ballast water management

will be organized by COMPLETE project in Jurmala (Latvia), on 4–5 December 2019.

The aim of the conference is to discuss potential solutions and sustainable management options to reducing the risk of invasive species introductions caused by shipping and boating in the Baltic Sea Region. The latest findings on the magnitude of the biofouling issue, and the current practices for biofouling management will be presented, and cost-effective solutions to harmonizing management actions across the region will be sought. Biofouling management will be discussed from the viewpoints of both the commercial shipping sector as well as the leisure boating sector. Moreover, the need for an early warning system for harmful aquatic organisms and pathogens in the region, and the scientific support for harmonized implementation of the Ballast Water Management Convention will be clarified.

More information of the event at conference web page.

COMPLETE project at IMO GloFouling Partnerships Project Kick Off

The work of the COMPLETE project ( was represented by Dr. Annika Krutwa/Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency (Germany), among other recent initiatives at the regional and global level, at the IMO GloFouling Partnerships Project kick-off meeting in London on 18-20 March. COMPLETE activities for filling knowledge gaps constitute the basis for the development of a regional harmonized Baltic Sea management strategy on biofouling to minimize species introduction and spread and provide the knowledge basis for a Baltic Sea wide harmonization of processes. Global co-operation in required for facing the challenges in the management of biofouling and invasive alien species.

Follow the link to the briefing about the meeting here.


4-8 March 2019, Weymouth, England: COMPLETE partners participated in the ICES Working Group on Ballast and Other Ship Vectors (WGBOSV) and ICES/IOC/IMO Working Group on Introduction and Transfer of Marine Organisms (WGITMO) meetings. They presented and discussed the project progress at the international expert level, and received up-to-date information of the latest findings in the field of invasive alien species transported by maritime traffic.


Gothenburg, Sweden, 13-14 December 2018. The status report of the COMPLETE project was presented at the 9th meeting of the Joint HELCOM/OSPAR Task Group on Ballast Water Management Convention Exemptions (HELCOM/OSPAR TG BALLAST). The COMPLETE project also presented the project output 3.1 “Advanced target species selection criteria”. The  proposed  selection  of  TS  is  based  on  all  pertinent prioritized and ranked values (potential to pose threat to human health, impact on economy, and environment)  and  on  the  IMO Guidelines on  risk  assessment  under  regulation  A-4 (G7).

The meeting documents and outcome can be found at the HELCOM meeting portal.

Flagship project developing management strategies for ships’ ballast water and hull fouling

The EU project COMPLETE (Completing management options in the Baltic Sea Region to reduce risk of invasive alien species introduction by shipping) gained flagship project status from the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR) on 26th of September 2018. This demonstrates the high political relevance of ships’ ballast water and hull fouling management to reduce the risk of introduction of harmful aquatic organisms and pathogens. The project’s aim to minimize this risk by the development of user-friendly tools and management options is recognized as essential. The flagship status supports conveying the relevant results and recommendations of the COMPLETE project to the policy level and contributes to ensuring that the project results are used in practice.

Aim to minimize the introduction of harmful aquatic organisms and pathogens

The COMPLETE project develops consistent and adaptive management options for the Baltic Sea Region addressing both major vectors for invasive species introductions: ballast water and biofouling. The project is tackling several gaps in current knowledge and proposing both operational frameworks and user-friendly tools for the management of these two vectors. The COMPLETE project aims at developing a roadmap for a regionally harmonized biofouling management strategy by involving all relevant stakeholders in all phases of this process.

Co-operation between all Baltic Sea Region countries

COMPLETE partners from Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Sweden are working together with 23 associated organizations from all Baltic Sea states. These organizations include research organizations, maritime and environmental ministries, their agencies, relevant private companies (e.g. shipping companies, shipowners, port authorities) and NGOs.


Project web page:

Project can also be followed in twitter and ResearchGate.


COMPLETE project presented at the 8th Meeting of the Joint HELCOM/OSPAR TG Ballast

16-17 November 2017, Helsinki, Finland: Tasks and activities of COMPLETE were discussed in the light of the information needed by TG Ballast for the ongoing amendment of the HELCOM/OSPAR Joint Harmonized procedure on granting exemptions from ballast water treatment provisions of the 2004 International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments (BWM Convention) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO). (;

Meriliikenteen päästövähennystavoitteet

Halonen, Justiina ja Piispa, Marko 2018. In: Halonen & Potinkara (toim.), Liikkeellä: Toimintaa ja tuloksia logistiikan ja merenkulun tutkimus-ja kehitystoiminnasta. Xamk Kehittää 60, Kaakkois-Suomen ammattikorkeakoulu 2018. s. 61-72.

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Mittauksia ja data-analyysiä aluskohtaisten kulkuvastusten selvittämiseksi – COMPLETE-hankkeen tavoitteena on ehkäistä vieraslajien leviämistä ja parantaa laivojen polttoainetaloutta

Altarriba, Elias 2018. In: Halonen & Potinkara (toim.), Liikkeellä: Toimintaa ja tuloksia logistiikan ja merenkulun tutkimus-ja kehitystoiminnasta. Xamk Kehittää 60, Kaakkois-Suomen ammattikorkeakoulu 2018. p. 37-46. (in Finnish)

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Pohjanpesun vaikutus aluksen kulkuun ja polttoainetalouteen

Lönnqvist, Max 2018. In: Halonen & Potinkara (toim.), Liikkeellä: Toimintaa ja tuloksia logistiikan ja merenkulun tutkimus-ja kehitystoiminnasta. Xamk Kehittää 60, Kaakkois-Suomen ammattikorkeakoulu 2018. s. 9-36. (In Finnish)

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Laivan pohjan puhtauden vaikutus kulkuvastukseen – Complete etsii ratkaisuja vieraslajiongelmaan

Altarriba, Elias & Karjalainen, Miina. 2017. Turvallisesti, tehokkaasti, asiantuntevasti : Katsaus logistiikan ja merenkulun kehityshankkeisiin. Xamk Kehittää 23, Kaakkois-Suomen ammattikorkeakoulu. Halonen J., Potinkara P. (Eds.). ISBN:978-952-344-045-6. Sivut 119-124.

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Miina Karjalainen Project researcher

Implementation time

1.10.2017 - 30.9.2020