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Overview Ballast Water Treatment Systems

To stabilize ships at sea and to keep the vessels structurally ship-shape, on-board ballast tanks are filled with water. The mass of the water weighs the vessel down, lowering its centre of gravity. Depending on the weight of the cargo, or where on board it is being stowed, tanks placed in different parts of the hull can be filled and emptied strategically to balance and stabilize the carrier.

Ballast water is typically ocean water, taken on-board before or during a voyage. And this is where the ecological challenge comes in - with the problem of bio-invasion. Depending on where in the ocean the ballast water is collected, it almost certainly contains a myriad of water-borne microbes and pathogens (germs) as well as thousands of other tiny marine creatures of various species, including macro-invertebrates.

When these inhabitants of the ocean are removed from their natural surroundings through sea water being pumped into a vessel, chances are that they will be released in a different part of the ocean when the ballast water is emptied into the sea. In this way, these microscopic organisms are transported across territories and climate zones, often thousands of sea miles from their origins.

When these diverse sea inhabitants are introduced into foreign oceans, where they might not have any natural predators to keep their numbers in check, the natural state of the ecology is upset. Invasive aliens, as these non-native species are called, can quickly cause significant ecological destruction. Biodiversity is thrown out of balance. This can have far-reaching effects. An entire species of fish could be wiped out or reduced in such numbers that the local economy might suffer, in a situation where communities are reliant on the fishing industry. Large masses of decaying organisms could cause health risks or even harm a country’s tourist industry.