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Protecting the Seas through Ballast Water Testing

August 6, 2012

Category: A Closer Look

Cal Maritime’s 500-foot TS Golden Bear is helping save the seas from being invaded by foreign organisms by offering the nation’s first shipboard and land-based ballast water treatment systems testing facility. TS Golden Bear can determine if a ship meets both the shipboard and land-based testing requirements, which are two independent sets of rigorous tests for ballast water treatment systems to determine the efficiency of reducing marine vessel environmental impacts; most testing facilities can only determine one or the other.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) requires that ships traveling the oceans must have certified ballast water treatment systems in place to protect against invasive species being transported from one port to the next. In order to maintain a ship’s balance and stability when sailing long distances, a ship must uptake and store seawater in its ballast tanks from the starting location and later discharge the water back into the ocean at its destination point. During this process, vessels can transfer potentially invasive organisms from one area of the sea to another; these organisms can rapidly multiply and outcompete organisms in the native habitat.

Cal Maritime plays a key role in helping ships maintain efficient ballast water treatment systems that yield to IMO’s standards of significantly reducing the number of live zooplankton after the water has been chemically treated.

“We have designed the ‘plug and play’ system to meet the IMO’s guidelines for both shipboard and land-based testing,” said Bill Davidson, chief engineer and director of facilities operation aboard TS Golden Bear. “It only takes us four to five days to install a ship’s treatment system and one day to remove it. Vendors and test administrations can efficiently test the efficacy of a system to determine whether it meets standards.”

In the Marine Biology Laboratory aboard TS Golden Bear, CSU researchers and aspiring scientists from the Moss Landing Marine Laboratories (a consortium of seven CSU campuses dedicated to excelling science education) act as the independent third-party confirmation needed for IMO’s ballast treatment systems certification. Lead scientist and CSU professor Nick Welschmeyer and his science team tap their marine knowledge by identifying, counting and comparing invasive plankton with the pre-treated and treated water.

Officially launched in December 2010, Cal Maritime’s Ballast Water Treatment Systems Test Facility is available year-round and has already assisted with Type Approval testing for local, regional, national and international organizations. Cal Maritime is engaged in efforts that would result in the TS Golden Bear becoming a U.S. Coast Guard certified testing facility.

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