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Treatment Technology

Reballasting at sea, as recommended by the IMO guidelines, currently provides the best-available measure to reduce the risk of transfer of harmful aquatic organisms, but is subject to serious ship-safety limits. Even when it can be fully implemented, this technique is less than 100% effective in removing organisms from ballast water. Some parties even suggest that reballasting at sea may itself contribute to the wider dispersal of harmful species, and that island states located ‘down-stream’ of mid-ocean reballastring areas may be at particular risk from this practice.

It is therefore extremely important that alternative, effective ballast water management and/or treatment methods are developed as soon as possible, to replace reballasting at sea. Significant research and development (R&D) efforts are underway by a number of scientific and engineering research establishments around the world, aimed at developing a more complete solution to this problem.

Diagram of a ship showing the holds

Options being considered include:
  • Mechanical treatment methods such as filtration and separation.
  • Physical treatment methods such as sterilisation by ozone, ultra-violet light, electric currents and heat treatment.
  • Chemical treatment methods such adding biocides to ballast water to kill organisms.
  • Various combinations of the above.

All of these possibilities currently require significant further research effort. Major barriers still exist in scaling these various technologies up to deal effectively with the huge quantities of ballast water carried by large ships (e.g. about 60,000 tonnes of ballast water on a 200,000 DWT bulk carrier). Treatment options must not interfere unduly with the safe and economical operation of the ship and must consider ship design limitations. Any control measure that is developed must meet a number of criteria, including:

  • It must be safe.
  • It must be environmentally acceptable.
  • It must be cost-effective.
  • It must work.

One of the problems currently faced by the global R&D community is that apart from the general criteria above, there are currently no internationally agreed and approved performance standards or evaluation system for the formal acceptance of any new techniques that are developed. In addition, many groups are working in isolation from each other, and there are no formal mechanisms in place to ensure effective lines of communication between the R&D community, governments and ship designers, builders and owners. These are vital if the R&D effort is to succeed.

The GloBallast Programme hopes to reduce these barriers through two initiatives, the Ballast Water Treatment R&D Directory (see below), and convening bi-annual Ballast Water Treatment R&D Symposium. The 1st Symposium was held in March 2001 (see below). The PCU also convened a Ballast Water Treatment Standards Workshop in March 2001, in an effort to assist the MEPC to finalize the newly adopted Ballast Water Convention (see below).

Search the Ballast Water Treatment R&D Directory (Database)

Click here for the Ballast Water Treatment R&D Directory (Adobe PDF)

Click here for the Abstracts from the 1st International Ballast Water Treatment R&D Symposium

Click here for the Abstracts from the 2nd International Ballast Water Treatment R&D Symposium (Adobe PDF)

Click here for the Proceedings from the 1st International Ballast Water Treatment R&D Symposium

Click here for the Report of the 1st International Ballast Water Treatment Standards Workshop

Click here for the Summary of the Convention Requirements

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