NOAA reports on ballast water exchange

NOAA and the Smithsonian have released a technical report that describes the effectiveness of ballast water exchange procedures as a way to reduce aquatic invasive species discharged into U.S. waters, including the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay. NOAA's National Center for Research on Aquatic Invasive Species and Smithsonian Environmental Research Center analyzed the delivery of ballast water to the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay.

These studies indicate reductions in the risk of invasive species introductions as a result of ballast water exchange. The analysis provides further confidence that overall, there has been a decline in the risk of invasion from ballast water in these regions. In addition, the report addresses a potential gap in the coastal ballast management protection framework where ships traveling less than 200 miles from the U.S. coast are not covered.

The report suggests that a standardized survey program, targeting key coastal ecosystems in the U.S., could provide the high-quality data necessary to (a) assess current invasion risk and (b) measure the performance of multiple management actions, including those of ships and other transfer mechanisms, in terms of invasion occurrence. No such program currently exists.

View the original article here; the full report (TM-142) is available here.


Workshop on Alternate Ballast Water Exchange Areas posted

The Proceedings of the Pacific Ballast Water Group's Workshop on Alternate Ballast Water Exchange Areas: Physical and Biological Oceanographic Considerations has been posted at http://www.psmfc.org/ballast/past_meetings.html. (Other PBWG Meeting presentations can be found there as well).


New Issue of the Aquatic Invasions Journal (free access)

To view current or past issues for free, visit the Aquatic Invasions Journal website.


National Park Services Bans Ballast Water Discharges in Isle Royale NP

Boaters and commercial shippers will be prohibited from emptying ballast tanks within Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior unless the ballast water is treated to kill invasive species, officials in Michigan said Monday, September 17. Aside from recreational boaters, the new rule will mostly affect Canadian and other foreign freighters calling at the port of Thunder Bay, Ontario.

The emergency regulation is designed to protect the park's fish populations from a deadly virus spreading rapidly across the other Great Lakes, Phyllis Green, superintendent of Isle Royale. Viral hemorrhagic septicemia, or VHS, is among many exotic species that scientists believe have been scooped into ships' ballast tanks in foreign ports, then discharged into the Great Lakes. VHS has not shown up in Lake Superior, but has caused large die-offs of popular game species such as walleye, northern pike and yellow perch in the other lakes and some inland waterways.

The rule will affect Canadian and other commercial ships because the shipping lane between Thunder Bay and the Soo Locks, gateway to Lake Superior, runs through Isle Royale waters, Green said. Nearly all those ships are Canadian or based in other foreign countries, said Glen Nekvasil, spokesman for the Lake Carriers Association, which represents U.S.-flagged freighters that remain inside the Great Lakes system.

Green said lake trout around Isle Royale were especially vulnerable, especially this time of year, when they are congregating to spawn and can spread disease quickly between them. Her order, which takes effect Tuesday, September 18, covers a 684-square-mile (1,772-square- kilometer) area, including 475 square miles (1,230-square-kilometers) of waters within park jurisdiction. Isle Royale is in northwestern Lake Superior.

Fore more info, visit The International Herald Tribune or The Mining Gazette.


IMO Committee grants treatment technology approval

From the Summer 2007 edition of the USCG's Environmental Standards Update:

The IMO's Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) granted both Basic and Final Approval for the PureBallast system submitted by Sweden and Norway, and granted Basic Approval to the NK system submitted by the Republic of Korea.

For more IMO and USCG news, see the Environmental Standards Update archive.

Identifying, Verifying and Establishing Options for Best Management Practices for No Ballast on Board Vessels Final Report released

Access the report here; a summary of report content is as follows:

A “Code of Best Practices for Ballast Water Management” was adopted by the Shipping Federation of Canada and the (U.S.) Lake Carrier's Association in 2000. In 2002 the St. Lawrence Seaway corporations adopted rules making compliance with the Code mandatory for entry into the Seaway. The Code promotes the maintenance of relatively clean ballast tanks through a program of regular inspection and cleaning, combined with a precautionary approach to ballasting with the objective of limiting or avoiding the uptake of ballast under specified conditions. However, there has never been an assessment of the extent to which commercially operating ships can realistically apply these practices or the effectiveness of the stated practices for reducing the risk of new species introductions.

A group of researchers therefore conducted a scientific study to 1) test and evaluate the effectiveness of the current Best Management Practices (BMPs), focusing on a subset that are specifically applicable to ballast management for reduction of invasion risk associated with empty ballast tanks on ships entering the Great Lakes with no pumpable ballast-on-board (NOBOB), and 2) test a set of enhancements to the existing BMPs, focusing on flushing of tanks with deep ocean water, either when the ship is in NOBOB condition or as an intermediate step in deep ocean exchange. In particular, they wanted to examine whether BMPs are effective at reducing the abundance and viability of live organisms and resting stages.

They concluded that current rules for minimizing AIS entry into the Great Lakes are not adequate; the study recommends that ships be required to rinse their ballast tanks with deep-ocean water before entering the St. Lawrence Seaway. The practice, referred to as "salt water flushing" is an inexpensive alternative that would likely help while other approaches for sanitizing ballast water, such as chemicals, heat, ozone, and UV radiation are being explored.