Minnesota Approves Ballast Water Rules

On September 23, 2008 the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) approved ballast water regulations to reduce the number of aquatic invasive species (AIS) in the Great Lakes. Minnesota joins Michigan as the second state in the region to adopt its own rules in addition to federal guidelines.

The new rules affect ships operating within the lakes, also known as “lakers,” and ships from the ocean, or “salties.” Ships built in 2012 and after must treat their ballast water before discharging, and all other ships must do so by 2016. Treatment systems must meet International Maritime Organization (IMO) Performance Standards. Also, ships looking to discharge ballast in Minnesota waters must obtain a permit from the MPCA.

For more information, visit the MPCA Vessel Discharge (Ballast Water) Program website at:


For a fact sheet on the permitting process, visit:



July Report: Invasive Species Cost $200 Million Each Year in the Great Lakes

The Center for Aquatic Conservation at the University of Notre Dame released a report this past July about the costs of Invasive Species in the Great Lakes region. Total yearly losses were calculated at $200 Million, with the sport fishing industry leading as the hardest hit ($123.5 Million/year).

Follow the link for a fact sheet on this Report:


Microbial stowaways: Are ships spreading disease?

Ships are inadvertently carrying trillions of stowaways in their ballast water tanks that could pose a risk to public health, according to newly published research. Get the article here.

When water is pumped out of ballast tanks, it can release disease-causing microbes, said Fred Dobbs, a marine microbial ecologist at Old Dominion University in Virginia.

"This is a very difficult thing to predict," Mr. Dobbs said Wednesday in a telephone interview.

"It isn’t an issue, of course, until the ship discharges its ballast water, and anything that’s lived throughout the course of the voyage will subsequently be dumped into receiving waters."

He was able to track Vibrio cholerae, the bacterium that causes cholera in humans, from an outbreak in Peru to Mobile, Ala.

"We had a pretty good smoking gun argument that ships were transporting these disease organisms from South to North America," said Mr. Dobbs, whose article, titled Ship ballast tanks: how microbes travel the world, appears in the recent edition of Microbiology Today.

Untreated cholera can be deadly.

"The deaths are occurring on the Indian subcontinent, principally, and in South America. There are various estimates between 10,000 and 50,000 people per year that die from the disease."

Other disease-causing microbes in ship ballast tanks, which Mr. Dobbs said are sampled very rarely, include Cryptosporidium parvum and Giardia duodenalis. Both can cause stomach upset. Researchers also found enterovirus in ballast water, which can cause mild respiratory illness and hand, foot and mouth disease.

"We’re playing ecological roulette . . . with transporting all these species everywhere all the time," Mr. Dobbs said.

He stressed there’s been no documented case of disease outbreaks associated with the ballasting activities of ships.

"In particular, in the U.S. and Canada, we’ve got a couple of things working in our favour. No. 1, the water is cool to cold, depending on how far up the coast you are. And we also have very good hygiene. People aren’t washing their clothes and taking drinking water from the same rivers in which there’s sewage pollution."

But ballast water could carry diseases deadly to fish and seabirds, he said.

"Red tide organisms can be transported by ships as well," said Mr. Dobbs, noting agents that cause paralytic shellfish poisoning can also stow away inside ballast tanks.

"That may be as much, if not more, of an issue for us to be considering. The upshot of this is, whether it’s at the U.S., state, Canadian, national or even the international arena, there are a series of standards that are either being proposed or, in fact, are already in force."

Those regulations stipulate what organisms can be discharged with ballast water.

"These are daunting technological and scientific challenges that, arguably, have been made, in some cases, by politicians who don’t appreciate the technical difficulties involved," Mr. Dobbs said.

Ultraviolet radiation and chlorine can be used to treat ballast water, he said. Ultrasound, heat, microwaves and hydrogen peroxide are also proposed fixes.

"There is filtration, which does a great job, but it can only get down to maybe about 25 micrometres, and your garden variety bacterium is one micrometre or less. So filtration isn’t going to get out bacteria."

Ships pump water into and out of ballast tanks to compensate for cargo, increase propulsion efficiency and maximize stability in rough seas.

Mariners are supposed to discharge their ballast water far out to sea, he said. But that can cost time and fuel, an outlay unscrupulous captains might be anxious to avoid. Skippers can also claim an exemption if seas are rough.

"Some shipping companies are very, very good, and others, it’s hard to know whether they’re good or not. If somebody wants to subvert the system, it’s usually possible."


Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2008 passed by House of Representatives

On April 24, the House passed the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2008 (H.R. 2830) by a vote of 395 to 7. Strong bipartisan support for the legislation followed the adoption of two amendments. The first, a manager's amendment, improves transparency by requiring that regulated ships submit records of their actions to the Secretary of Transportation on a monthly basis, and ensures that ships claiming no ballast on board (NOBOBs) will be required to conduct saltwater flushing. A second amendment by Representative Mark Kirk (R-IL) gives the Coast Guard the authority to take emergency response measures if vessels operating exclusively within the Great Lakes present the risk of spreading invasive species or infectious diseases. H.R. 2830 also requires that in 2009 shippers must begin installing ballast water treatment systems that meet an interim standard in vessels that enter U.S. waters. All ships will be required to have ballast technology on board by 2014. Water quality standards for the treated ballast water will be ten times more stringent than international standards that are set to take effect in 2015. Additionally, the bill allows states to retain their ability to complement and strengthen the federal program. For more information: http://thomas.loc.gov/.


AIS Curriculum Debut

In Oregon, a high school marine biology class started a watery campaign to prevent invasive species on the coast - specifically Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) - that adversely affect local habitats. View the full article here.

The West Coast Ballast Outreach Project is creating a California version of the Oregon curriculum, as well. For more information, visit the WCBOP website.


Ballast Free Ship Design Proposed

University of Michigan researchers are investigating a radical new design for cargo ships that would eliminate ballast tanks, the water-filled compartments that enable non-native creatures to sneak into the Great Lakes from overseas.

Read the full article here.


Coast Guard takes the next STEP

The Coast Guard has prepared draft environmental assessments (DEAs) for three applicants seeking to participate in the Shipboard Technology Evaluation Program (STEP): Princess Cruise Lines' Coral Princess, Atlantic Container Lines' Atlantic Compass and Matson Shipping's Moku Pahu. In Federal Register notices (73FR 18544-18546) published April 4, 2008, the Coast Guard requests comment on the environmental impacts of testing these ballast water treatment systems on board ships.

The notices can be found at: http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2008/pdf/E8-6988.pdf. DEAs can be found here. Comments and related materials must reach the Docket Management Facility on or before June 3, 2008. Additional information on the Coast Guard's ballast water program and the Shipboard Technology Evaluation Program application package is available at: http://www.uscg.mil/hq/g-m/mso/mso4/bwm/step.htm. If you have questions on the Draft Environmental Assessment (DEA) , please contact LCDR Brian Moore, telephone 202-372-1434 or e-mail: brian.e.moore@uscg.mil.


California AIS Management Plan Released

This plan proposes management actions for addressing aquatic invasive species (AIS) threats to the State of California. It focuses on the non-native algae, crabs, clams, fish, plants and other species that continue to invade California’s creeks, wetlands, rivers, bays and coastal waters.

State surveys indicate that at least 607species of aquatic invaders can be found in California’s estuarine waters. These invaders cause major impacts: disrupting agriculture, shipping, water delivery, recreational and commercial fishing; undermining levees, docks and environmental restoration activities; impeding navigation and enjoyment of the state’s waterways; and damaging native habitats and the species that depend on them. As the ease of transporting organisms across the Americas and around the globe has increased, so has the rate of AIS introductions.

View the plan here.


Water Rate Hike due to Inasive Mussels

Southern California's largest water supplier is set to raise rates to offset higher electrical bills, protect endangered fish and pay for cleanup associated with an invasive mussel. Board members of the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District are expected to approve what amounts to a 14.3 percent increase for its water in March, officials said.

Read complete article here.


NY Times Article on AIS Impacts

The NY Times has competed an article about the extent of human impact on the oceans, and aquatic invasive species are listed as a primary threat.

Map showing distribution of AIS impacts

Article on AIS impacts

This article was written using the following sources:

National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis's "A Global Map of Human Impacts to Marine Ecosystems" and Halpern, B.S., et al. 2008. A Global Map of Human Impact on Marine Ecosystems. Science 319, 948.


New report on AIS threat to global marine biodiversity

Some 84 per cent of the world's marine ecosystems have been infected by invasive species - and this number could be even higher due to under-reporting, according to a new study from the Nature Conservancy. Although invasive species are widely recognized as a major threat to marine biodiversity, there has been no quantitative global assessment of their impacts and routes of introduction. The report gives initial results from the first such global assessment. Drawing from over 350 databases and other sources, it synthesizes information on 329 marine invasive species, including their distribution, impacts on biodiversity, and introduction pathways. Initial analyses show that only 16% of marine ecoregions have no reported marine invasions, and even that figure may be inflated due to under-reporting. International shipping, followed by aquaculture, represent the major means of introduction. The geographically referenced and publicly available database provides a framework that can be used to highlight the invasive taxa that are most threatening, as well as to prioritize the invasion pathways that pose the greatest threat.

Get the paper here.

Coast Guard releases latest newsletter

The Coast Guard's Environmental Standards Division has published the Winter 2008 edition of its "Environmental Standards Update" newsletter. An archive of the current and past editions is also available on the USCG website at: http://www.uscg.mil/hq/g-m/mso/esn.htm



St. Lawrence Seaway toughens ballast regulations

The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation (SLSMC, part of the Dept. of Transportation) has announced stricter ballast water management practices for the 2008 season. Beginning with the 2008 navigation season, all ocean vessels, including those with "no ballast on board," will be subjected to an inspection, covering 100 percent of ballast water tanks. This inspection process will ensure that the vessel--while still a minimum of 200 km offshore--flushed all of its tanks with salt water.

Since 2006, all ocean vessels bound for a Canadian port have been subjected to ballast water inspections, to ensure that water within the ballast tanks adheres to a minimum level of salinity of 30 parts per thousand. With the harmonization of U.S. and Canadian standards, all vessels entering the Seaway, irrespective of destination, will be subjected to the same inspection process.

For the full story, click here. For the official proposed rules, click here.


K-Line introduces "green" vessel

On January 17, 2008, a new ship making its maiden voyage arrived at the Port of Hueneme. The car carrier Georgia Highway was equipped with features such as a triple hull to prevent oil spills, as well as cement ballast and silicone paint, both used to reduce the possibility of introducing invasive species to a port. The carrier is one of three of its size with such features operated by Japanese shipping company Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Ltd., or K-Line. The company also has three smaller ships built with environmentally friendly features, including main engines that are electronically controlled to cut emissions.

The permanent cement ballast reduces the amount of water ballast the ship takes on to give it the proper weight balance. Capt. Yoshizawa said Georgia Highway also has a new type of paint on its hull that keeps organisms in the port, such as kelp or algae, from clinging to the ship. That means less drag on the ship, but it also reduces the possibility that the ship will transport something from one port to another.

The ships aren't the only ones adding green features. The Port of Hueneme has a company on site that exclusively sells biodiesel to the tugboats, oil platform boats and others.

For the full story, click here.


Mussels Shuts Down Nuclear Plant

Lake Ontario's Zebra and Quagga mussels appear to be behind the surge of seaweed that has shut down the James A. FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant three times in the past two months, scientists said. The FitzPatrick plant, on the lakeshore in Scriba, was shut down Sept. 12, Oct. 14 and Oct. 28 when seaweed clogged filters, reducing the amount of water available to cool the reactor. The shutdown costs the plant between $1.5 million and $2 million a day in lost revenue, according to federal figures.

The seaweed, called Cladophora, is a "filamentous algae," that grows in fine strands and isn’t edible by the zebra and Quagga mussels that have so successfully made Lake Ontario home. The mussels eat all sorts of free-floating algae - that's how they've managed to make Lake Ontario, Onondaga Lake and other bodies of water in Central New York so much clearer. Lake waters cleared of algae by the mussels allow more sunshine to penetrate deeper, encouraging Cladophora to spread to more of the lake bottom. Then, as winds blows, choppy waters scrub Cladophora from the lake bottom. The fine strands piled up so densely, he said, water couldn't pass through. In two of the three incidents, operators had to scram the plant - that is, drive control rods into the reactor to snuff the nuclear reaction as quickly as possible. That procedure is usually associated with emergencies and it's one the Nuclear Regulatory Commission watches closely.

For the full story, click here.


Ballast Water Management Demonstration Program grants competition now open

The 2008 Ballast Water Management Demonstration Program grants competitions were announced in the Federal Register on December 27, 2007, and can be found here.

As in recent years, there are two competitions: one for individual projects on ballast water-related technologies and practices, and one on establishment of a ballast water research, development, test and evaluation (RDTE) facility.

Both full Federal Funding Opportunity announcements are posted on Grants.gov. They can be found by selecting the link to "Find Grant Opportunities" on the Grants.gov home page, then selecting "Basic Search" and searching on these Federal Funding Opportunity numbers:

OAR-SG-2008-2001206 (for the technologies and practices competition)
OAR-SG-2008-2001279 (for the RDTE facility competition)

For the technologies and practices competition, the deadline for letters of intent (mandatory to be eligible to submit a full proposal) is February 21, 2008 and the deadline for full proposals is April 3, 2008.

For the RDTE facility competition, the deadline for preproposals (mandatory to be eligible to submit a full proposal) is February 21, 2008 and the deadline for full proposals is April 24, 2008.

National Invasive Species Management Plan open for public comment

The Department of the Interior seeks comments on the 2008-2012 National Invasive Species Management Plan. Comments should be submitted by February 11, 2008. The document is posted on the USDA's Invasive Species Information page.


First commercial order for Alfa Laval's PureBallast

The Alfa Laval PureBallast system combines a chemical-free technology with a compact design that fits easily into the engine room. The system meets the requirements defined by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a specialised agency of the United Nations. The Alfa Laval PureBallast equipment will be installed aboard four new ships owned by German ship owner E.R Schiffahrt. These new ships, scheduled for completion in 2008, will be one of the first to comply with the pending IMO regulations. For the full article, click here.