Sustainable Ballast Water Management Plant

Project Partner Objectives Workpackages Contact Go to BaWaPla PM

Project objectives 

Maritime transport is of fundamental importance to Europe and the rest of the world. Over 90% of European Union external trade goes by sea and more than 1 billion tonnes of freight a year are loaded and unloaded in EU ports [EMSA]. This means that shipping is the most important mode of transport in terms of volume. Furthermore, as a result of its geography, its history and the effects of globalisation, maritime transport will continue to be the most important transport mode in developing EU trade for the foreseeable future.

Transfer of species in ballast water started as early as shipping trade. The movement of some 3 to 12 billion tonnes of ballast water in ships internationally each year has been responsible for the settlement of about 100 million tons of sediment [1]. Its cleaning and the disposal of the ballast sludge produced involve enormous costs, (approximately 30.000 € for a small bulk carrier), as well as job hazards and time. Furthermore, as the sediment cannot be removed, the freight capacity of the ship decreases with time and stability problems arise.

Besides these economic aspects, ballast water has been recognised as a major vector for the translocation of aquatic species across biogeographical boundaries. It is estimated that as many as 10,000 alien species of plants and animals are transported per day in ships around the world [2]. As ships travel faster and world trade grows, organisms are better able to survive the journey, using the settled sediments as a substrate, and the threat of invasive species from ballast water increases. Thus with a reduction of sediment settlement in ballast tanks, a significantly reduced danger of alien organisms can be expected.

The Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) adopted guidelines for ballast water exchange in July 1991. A working group began development of regulations to replace these guidelines in 1994. At its 53rd session in July 2005, IMO's Marine environment Protection Committee (MEPC) adopted Guidelines for uniform implementation of the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments (BWM Convention, see Annex). The guidelines adopted cover ballast water management equivalent compliance; approval of ballast water management systems; ballast water management and development of ballast water management plans; ballast water exchange and the Procedure for approval of ballast water management systems that make use of Active Substances. At July 2005, eight countries (Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Finland, Maldives, The Netherlands, Spain and Syrian Arab Republic) have signed the Ballast Water Management Convention, subject to ratification [3].

The BMW Convention will require all ships to implement a Ballast Water and Sediments Management Plan, to carry a Ballast Water Record Book and to carry out ballast water management procedures to a given standard. Existing ships will be required to do the same, but after a phase-in period.

Various ballast water treatment options have been considered in the last 10 to 15 years, including biological, chemical, physical and mechanical treatment techniques or a variation thereof. However, it is generally agreed that a single treatment methodology would not be sufficient to achieve IMO standards for all sea waters and all ship types. Meanwhile, various projects dealing with ballast water treatment were initiated and different treatment systems have been developed and tested in one way or another. However, a single treatment system which is able to comply with IMO guidelines is still being investigated for.

Aim of the proposed project is the implementation of an innovative hybrid BW treatment system, utilising some known ballast water (BW) treatment technologies such as UV and filters in addition to an innovative sea-water based electrolysis (Electro Chemical or El-Chem). Each individual treatment system would contribute to a particular biological target set out at IMO and MEPC and will form a completely self-controlled ships' BW treatment system.

Chemical solutions for treatment of BW may consist of ozone, chlorine, hydrogen peroxide, free oxygen and other disinfectants. By producing these active substances using Electro Chemical cells which use sea-water as their operation media, will remove the space, hazard and cost associated with such chemicals onboard vessels.
BaWaPla project will help the EU to fulfil Article 6 of the Convention, which requests the parties to endeavour, individually or jointly, to (a) promote and facilitate scientific and technical research on ballast water management, and (b) monitor the effects of ballast water management in waters under the parties' jurisdiction.

This broad area of research for an optimised electrochemical treatment stage comprises:

  • Construction of electrochemical generator running on sea water, without by-products.
  • Investigation of half-life in respect to harm free discharge and re-growth.
  • Examination of effect on materials and risk of corrosion.
  • Parameter identification for system's control and monitoring purposes.

The main objectives of this project for the marine sector are:

  • To provide a safe, economically viable, and technically competitive alternative for onboard ballast water management.
  • To develop an optimised sweater based electrochemical treatment system.
  • Reduction of ballast tank cleaning costs.
  • Reduction of sludge disposal costs.
  • Adaptation of BW treatment system to a specific ship and her mission profile.

The main environmental objectives of the project are:

  • To develop an efficient ballast water treatment system which allows the reduction of non-indigenous marine species transfer according to IMO convention and guidelines.
  • To develop an environmentally acceptable and cost-effective treatment system.
  • To develop an automatic control/monitoring system which provides an unattended system operation.

RTDs, SMEs and industrial partners from European and associated countries with complementary scientific and technical knowledge will participate in BaWaPla. Most of the BaWaPla consortium members are familiar with the idea of European and International R&D programmes, namely the most relevant and recent ones: ECODOCK, TREBAWA (Craft project, OptiMarin, ttz) and MARTOB (UNEW), ETISMAR (ETI activity, BALance).

Combining the wealth of scientific and technological expertise as well as coordination, management and dissemination experience within BaWaPla's consortium, a technically and scientifically successful outcome is envisaged. Through the participation of ship maintenance/repair partners as well as classification companies the technology transfer between research and industry is ensured.

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State of the Art

The introduction of new species has been an increasing problem during the past decade. Alien species can change the existing ecosystem and food chains, and have severely affected fisheries and industrial water intakes, causing economic losses. There are numerous examples of the ecological devastation that the introduction of non-indigenous species can cause. In total, more than 1,000 non-indigenous species have been found in European coastal and adjacent waters [6].

For example, Chinese mitten crabs (Eriocheir sinensis), native to Asia, now have a European distribution from Finland to southern France [4]. More than 80 species have been introduced to the North Sea. Some of these alien species were introduced hundreds of years ago, such as the sand-gaper Mya arenaria or the Japanese oyster (Crassostrea gigas). In the late 1990s several local populations thrived in the lower inter-tidal area of the Dutch and German Wadden Sea.

European zebra mussel
Fig. 1: European zebra mussel

One trans-Atlantic invader is the European zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha), believed to have been introduced to the Great Lakes in the 1980s. Native to the Capsian and Black Seas, it spread throughout Europe in the19th century [1]. The zebra mussel was recorded in the Gulf of Finland in 1995. This species has caused severe problems in freshwater in other countries, but has not yet been recorded in freshwater areas in Finland. In many sites in the Russian part of the Gulf of Finland, the zebra mussel has become the dominant species on hard bottom [5].

The figure 2 shows the main techniques which have already been assessed or are currently being investigated for application in the treatment of ballast water. The main techniques which have already been assessed or are currently being investigated for application in the treatment of ballast water are: biological, chemical (Chlorine/H2O2, ozone, organic agents ect.), physical (e.g. UV, deoxygenation, heat treatment, ultrasounds) and mechanical treatment techniques (filtration, cyclonic separation).

Most of these potential technologies have not yet been demonstrated in a full-scale shipboard environment. It can be concluded that an effective method can be achieved by using a combination of existing technologies, e.g. using the mechanical separation as a primary treatment to remove larger organisms and/or suspended solids and UV as a secondary treatment to inactivate the remaining organisms, and chemicals in order to disinfect the ballast water and make it suitable for discharge.

A number of studies have been carried out by individual nations and organisations in this field. The conclusion has emerged that there is as yet no universal method for ballast water treatment that can be used for all types of ships in all operational conditions.

The clear aim of the BaWaPla project is to contribute towards providing a sustainable solution for the above mentioned problems regarding ballast water treatment and management.

The BaWaPla consortium is consisted of partners from research and development sector with outstanding expertise in maritime technology and naval engineering, marine biology and chemistry, mechanical and process engineering, professional education in knowledge and information management and technical communication and partners from marine industry. Consortium partners are also involved in relevant national and international working groups, such as IMO's Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC), International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), Baltic Marine Biologists etc. This multidisciplinary team will collaborate in several working groups on technical and scientific and marketing levels. This multidisciplinary approach will ensure an optimum performance and effective communication between partners and finally it will result in the development of new hybrid treatment system as well as invaluable contribution to the enforceability of new guidelines put forward by IMO.


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[1] IMO Resolution A.868(20), "Guidelines for the Control and Management of Ship's Ballast Water to Minimize the Transfer of Harmful Aquatic Organisms and Pathogens"
[2] Cohen, "Ship's ballast water and the Introduction of Exotic organisms in to the San Francisco Estuary- Current Status of the Problem and Options for management", California Urban Water Agencies, October 1998.
[4] EEA Report: Non-indigenous species in rivers and lakes.
[5] EEA - Europe's biodiversity - biogeographical regions and seas /Mats Walday and Tone Kroglund, Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA)]

Supported by

6th Framework Programme of the European Commission