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How to treat ballast water

May 24, 2017


The problems caused by inadvertently transporting bacteria, microbes, organisms and other marine life from one location in the world to another have been well documented, and for this reason, effective ballast water treatment has become a must. The onus is on owners and operators to make sure all ballast water is safe, and the penalties for failing to do so are stronger now than ever before.

Before discharging ballast water, operators need to know that water can be jettisoned in a harmless manner and that it won’t damage the local marine environment. The best way to ensure safety is via accurate, reliable testing, and in the process to remain compliant with all relevant legislation, be it local, national or international. The 2016 ratification of the Ballast Water Management Convention has underlined the seriousness of the problems.

Exchange water in the right way at the right time

The regulations are very specific about the exchange of ballast water. This is an operation that has to be carried out at least 200 hundred nautical miles from the closest land mass and, equally important, it must take place in waters which are at least 200 metres deep. By complying with these rules, operators will be reducing the risks associated with the spreading of potentially invasive species.

Tested water must contain less than 10 living organisms per cubic metre, a standard which reduces hazardous damage to localised ecosystems. The only way to have peace of mind in regard to the effectiveness of ballast water treatment systems is via regular testing, and qualified personnel who have been trained to know what to look for should carry it out.

It’s important to ensure that all filters, sensors and related pieces of equipment are working properly. These and other processes which help with ballast water functionality are vital for the safety of our seas, and of course for ensuring your operation remains compliant with the regulations. Regular calibration where appropriate is a must.

Another vital aspect of ballast water treatment is the need for effluent biological organism monitoring. Various parameters apply, including:

  • Less than 1000 CFU/100ml for total heterotrophic bacteria
  • Less than 250 CFU/100ml for E.coli
  • Less than 100 CFU/100ml for enterococci

As always, the first steps in preventing the spread of harmful bacteria and invasive species is by testing on a regular basis, and that’s why all ocean-going vessels need to have an accurate and reliable ballast water test kit.

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