Ballast Water Management: Is the Cure Worse than the Disease?


By Marco Monteverde

The 8 September 2017, the Ballast Water Management Entry Into Force, is fast approaching. While it defines a new approach to solve the current situation, it seems to create a new problem.

Ballast water is absolutely essential to the safe and efficient operation of modern shipping, providing balance and stability to the ships but it also poses serious ecological, economic and health problems due to the multitude of marine species carried in ships’ ballast water.

These include bacteria, microbes, small invertebrates, eggs, cysts and larvae of various species. The transferred species may survive to establish a reproductive population in the host environment, becoming invasive, out-competing native species and multiplying into pest proportions.

As per the UN’s International Maritime Organization report, billions of tons of ballast water is transported around the world every year.

Shipping moves over 80% of the world’s commodities each year.

At any given time, 35 000 ships are en route on the water of the Earth and more than 3000 species are being transported in their ballast tanks.

The UN considers the introduction of non-indigenous oceanic species to be one of the top four serious threats to the global environment.

The reasons why I believe the cure may be worse than the disease.

To avoid the transfer of the multitude of marine species carried in ships’ ballast water, we are going to install different and very expensive ballast treatment equipment on board the vessels.

On the market there are different options:

Filtration and Separation, Chemical and Disinfection, Ultra-violet light treatment, Deoxygenation treatment, Heat treatment, Acoustic treatment, Electric current treatment and Magnetic treatment.

For all them the overall common objective is to kill all the organism.

Is it the cure worse than the disease? In other terms, do we want in the long run (let’s say 100 years) sterile seas?

This will be especially true for the enclosed and semi-enclosed seas such as the Mediterranean Sea in which there is a massive international navigation.

The existing solutions that could definitely solve this serious environmental problem.

The Ballast Water Management is a good start but I believe we should remain focused on definitely solving the problem.

We need to invest in research and to stay focused on the new technologies and solutions

For example, for new construction vessels the Ballast-Free Ship concept has the potential to be a cure for our sick seas.

The concept deserves to be analyzed in detail because it offers the possibility to stop the discharge of non-indigenous species.

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Source: Marco Monteverde, Naval Architect & Marine Engineer


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