Have You Ever Handled A Raft?

Source:- Internet, Courtesy:- Water By Nature, Copyright:- Justin Bailie

Many of us have but what is the most important thing one has to keep in mind for an effortless passage?



This is true because if there isn’t proper weight on both the ends of a raft – its trim will lead to an accident. This is a generally a human mind convention.

But here we are talking about huge vessels – 300m long and weight over 200,000 tons.

Just think that if balancing becomes an issue over their voyage – it will lead to loss of life, loss of economy and moreover loss of reputation.

Being a member of INTERNATIONAL MARITIME ORGAINIZATION, we are taught to fight tooth along with nail in safeguarding our reputation.

Here Comes the role of Ballast Water!

What is BALLAST WATER and how is it useful?

  • A freshwater or saltwater kept inside the ballast tank and cargo space of a ship.
  • It is used to provide steadiness and a smooth sail when the ship is not carrying cargo or when more stability is required.
  • It is often used to correct the trim of the ship caused due to uneven cargo loading.
  • Stress reducing is achieved on the hull.
  • Helps in improving living condition of the crew members by resisting uneven vessel movement.
Source:- Internet, Courtesy:- Cambiaso Risso Group

Now the question arises that if the stabilizing water is so useful and an integral part of a vessel, then why is the world facing an issue with it?

Why is it that the MARPOL is proposing new conventions which involves its treatment for reverting pollution?

How is it even possible that the ocean covering almost the entire world can be claimed as polluted by de-ballasting as the aqua ballast itself constitutes saltwater or freshwater?

Have you ever contemplated on this?

Look, it isn’t only the water which is causing pollution but rather the comprising members present in water leads to pollution which can be environmental, industrial etc.

Thus, the INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION FOR THE PREVENTION OF POLLUTION FROM SHIPS(MARPOL) presented an annexure- 7, which deals with International convention for preventing pollution from ships by ballast water.

MARPOL 73/78

The INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION FOR THE PREVENTION OF POLLUTION FROM SHIPS is one of the most important international marine environmental convention developed internationally by INTERNATIONAL MARITIME ORGANIZATION with an objective to minimize pollution of the oceans and seas including marine debris or dumping, oil and air pollution.

It is named MARPOL 73/78 because the original MARPOL was signed on 17 February 1973, but didn’t come into force on the signing date. The current convention is a combination of 1973 convention and 1978 protocol which came into force on 2 October,1983.

Hence it is named MARPOL 73/78.

International Maritime Organization(IMO)

  • A United state specialized agency with responsibility of shipping and the prevention of pollutions harming the shipping environment.
  • IMO’s work supports the UN sustainable development goals.
  • IMO was established at the UN Conference held in Geneva in 1948 but came into existence later in 1959.
  • It consists of 174 member states and 50 conventions and protocols.
  • Basically, if this shipping community would be considered a locality of people living together then, this IMO is a group of doyens of the residents who would make rules for the betterment and welfare of the society.

Stabilizing Water: An Uneven Affair

While ballast water is solemnly important for the proper ship related operations, this aqua adversely affects the surrounding aquatic environment and can introduce invasive species to new waters that alter the local ecosystem.

Suppose in this COVID–19 pandemic you plan to do gardening but your garden is short of some amount of soil. So, you prefer bringing some bare soil from the factory side. You work hard for your garden but soon it turns out to be a wasteland. Even your plants which were present from the beginning turned off.

What would you do? Obviously, you will be stressed.

Isn’t it possible that unknowingly you brought the soil which was contaminated with some chemicals which were not suitable for growing plants?

Isn’t it not possible that the chemicals flowing from the factories have made the soil nutrient-less and chemically rich? Therefore, when it was mixed with the existing soil in your garden it changed its native environment and affected the existing ecosystem.

This is how ballast water affect the environment.

The collection of ballast water in the ballast tanks stirs up microscopic organisms with it and leads to its passage from a native environment to a destination environment. Now if the living condition permits its existence it can dominate over the species living there and can hamper the existing ecosystem. In other case if the living condition does not permit its existence it will become extinct and this can even hamper the ecosystem.

Thus, the problematic situation arises in both the cases.

Eg: Studies have shown that the introduction of invasive mollusks within the U.S costs around $6 billion every year. Species like round goby have created problem within aquatic ecosystem in the Scandavian ecosystem and many more issues – Click to read more examples.

Another question is raised by the accumulation of sediments at the bottom of the ballast tank – which on one hand serves as ground for hosting organisms and in other leads to a passage of chemically rich sediments from an area to another harming the existing population and coastal industries that rely on water extraction.

Thus, in order to protect the ecosystem, the industrial work, the entire biodiversity, public health it is mandatory to solve this worldwide issue.

Thus, an annexure was proposed under MARPOL:

Annex-VII: International Convention for Preventing Pollution from Ballast Water through Ships

Ballast water managing Convention
  • The convention internationally claimed for the control and management of Ship’s Ballast Water and Sediments, 2004 (B.W.M Convention), entered into force globally on September 8, 2017.
  • As at September 2017, the treaty has been ratified by more than 60 countries, representing more than 70% of the world merchant shipping tonnage.
  • Based on the experience and feedback gained, draft amendments to the convention can be put forward for consideration at MEPC 79 (in 2022).

Ballast Directing Plan

  • BALLAST WATER MANAGING PLAN is a method of treating BW onboard a vessel to minimize the transfer of harmful organisms or aquatic species along with sediments in the vessel’s ballast.
  • Limitation imposed on imbibing the amount of water onboard is considered as priority. Along with it, various other mechanism to pause the sediment intake can also be considered as an integral part.
  • There no point in ballasting in areas which are water deficient such as shallow waters or where there’s a danger of invading aqua life. Therefore, considering each and every scenario, it is considered that if possible – ballasting in open waters such as ocean is the best.
  • Thus, a practical method for treating BW is served by BALLAST WATER EXCHANGE MECHANISMS.
Source:- Internet, Courtesy:- Wikipedia
Ballast Water Management
Courtesy:- libramar.net

Methods Involved in Ballast Water Exchange

BW exchange mechanism consists of various course of actions in use but to enhance and expedite the process, two methods are considered suitable and profitable- namely EMPTY REFILL METHOD and OVERFLOW METHOD. As per the esteemed past records, these are considered successful at a probability of .95 in eliminating aqua life. Being enriched in actions if performed in deep ocean waters.

Method of Emptying and Refilling

As the name suggest it acts like a religious tank which becomes cursed if the same ballast water is used twice. Profoundly, it is emptied and refilled each time replacing all the tanks one by one.

Flow Through Methodology

Remember the story we used to hear in our childhood of a thirsty crow who used pebbles to raise the limited water residing in the pitcher. The Same mechanism is used here. The existing water is replaced by overflowing the tank with excess water one by one for each and every tank. As established by the investigators, pumping water three times its volume leads to an interchange of 95% of ballast effectively.

Courtesy:- libramar.net

Ballast Water Treatment Methodology

Source:- YouTube, Courtesy:- OCEAN LOVER

The convention proclaims new methodologies for managing ballast water, the requirements for the new techniques are:

  • It must be a shielded technique.
  • It must be naturally consented.
  • Cost effective.
  • It should not turn into vain.

At the time of producing this, there are no other approved technique than ballast water exchange, however there are several techniques under developments.

Some are:-

  • Mechanical Treatment (Filter + Separate)

Ballast filtration is an effective method as if the BW is filtered before entering the tank then the accumulation of organisms inside the tank along with water can be stopped. Similarly, filtration while de-ballasting can help in protecting a particular aquatic environment from invasion of external species. This is in fact the most undemanding mechanism.

New techniques are being built day-by-day for the betterment and for proper handling making the process more impactful.

  • Physical Treatment(Ozone-sterilization, Ultra-V- light, Electricity and Heat Treatment)

Heating is considered a suitable method in treating BW at a suitable temperature ranging from 35-45 degree Celsius. Even though it kills can kill large organisms like fishes and all but it is incompetent in killing micro-organisms. Heating is executed by using a system of engine cooling – by cooling engine with BW or when heated water flushed into the ballast tanks.

Benefit of this method is that there is no alter-end spinoff.

  • Chemical Treatment(Adding biocides to Ballast water to kill organisms)

There are few different chemicals treatments developed today. Some are:-

  1. BIOCIDE: a chemical such as bleach that kills organisms.
  2. OXIDISING AGENTS: chemicals that destroy cell membrane through oxidisation. Process of rusting is an oxidation reaction.
  3. NON-OXIDISING  BIOCIDES:     biocides can also be lethal through various other chemical means.
  4. OZONE: it is very important in atmosphere. However, it is the major component of smog and is harmful component, often used as a biocide in water. Inherently, it is unstable and dangerous to produce, but is a powerful oxidising agent.

Aging of Ballast Water

If ballast water stays in a ballast tank for a year or more, more than 95% of the aquatic life and pathogens are dead. However, it is not an approved method.

BWTS can be installed in both built and retrofitted ships as installation requirements are flexible.

Hence, these are some effective ways to solve the problem of pollution from ships by ballast waters. Amendments are being made day by day to improve the existing condition and to prosper the maritime community and maritime trade.

Think Outside The Box!

Courtesy:- aeon.co

Hybridization is a technique in which one animal or plant breeding with another individual of another species or variety. Hybridization has various advantages in the native species such as:

  • It increases growth life.
  • Improves productivity through hybrid vigor.
  • Transfers desirable trait and reduces unwanted reproduction.
  • Combine other valuable trait such as good flesh quantity, disease resistance and environment tolerance.

Now, don’t you think that if species from the departure port are transferred via ballast tank to destination port may lead to hybridization and can have an effective increase in our existing biodiversity?

Don’t you think that if variety A of aquatic life combines with variety B of aquatic life may give rise to a new aquatic variety AB having more desirable traits and environment resisting power?

So why do we need to solve this problem of passing of species and sediments?

Think about it!


Authored By:- Cdt. Rohit Kumar, TMI

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