Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Disease And Pollution From Container And Tanker Shipping Is Needless

Lloyds Register Pollution Guide Tells How to Detoxify Ballast Water
Shipping News Feature

WORLDWIDE – In 1982, somewhere in the Black Sea a vessel, probably either a container carrier or an oil tanker, blew out her ballast tanks to stabilise her whilst she loaded her cargo. She had recently visited a point along the Atlantic coast of North or South America where she had unloaded a previous cargo. We shall never know her name or nationality but in that single act of pumping unfiltered water into the surrounding harbour she changed the entire economy of a region, probably forever.

This of course is pure supposition, but what is certain is that somehow that year there appeared a voracious invader from another Continent, suited perfectly to breed in the rich waters of the Black Sea . A small and innocuous comb jellyfish had arrived in sufficient quantity to begin a population which rapidly spread throughout the local waters. The cutely named “Sea Walnut” is in fact the ctenophore, Mnemiopsis ledyi, and is a major carnivorous predator of edible zooplankton, pelagic fish eggs and larvae and is associated with fishery crashes.

Within ten years it had virtually exterminated the horse mackerel population, sprat catches had halved and the anchovy, a staple of the regions economy, had all but disappeared, over 200,000 tonnes in 1984 had become a paltry 200 tonnes by 1993. The species has now reached the Aegean and Caspian seas where it still wreaks havoc on the local fishing industry.

Unfortunately that is only one of many horror stories which have resulted from seemingly harmless discharges of ballast water. Viruses spread and a multitude of alien life forms breed and blossom in the dark, stable waters of the tanks, cholera outbreaks are believed to occur frequently due to careless tank emissions.

Whilst ballast water produces only a tiny amount of what was previously recognised as ship bred pollution and efforts on reducing harmful levels of toxins and particulates produced by fuel oils have been the main thrust of anti contamination campaigns, ballast water is in effect an unstable and unseen killer, preying on, poisoning or changing the genetics of local flora and fauna with no control possible once released into the environment, but there is now no reason why ship owners cannot eliminate future contaminations.

Lloyds Register have just released the third edition of their “Lloyd's Register guide to Ballast Water Treatment Technology” which enables interested parties to access up to date technological solutions to a global problem.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has developed international legislation, the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments, to regulate discharges of ballast water and reduce the risk of introducing non-native species from ships’ ballast water. This requires certain ship types to use systems which make the treatment of ballast water one of the most significant environmental and operational challenges facing the marine industry today.

According to Dr Gillian Reynolds, Principal Environment and Sustainability Advisor at Lloyd's Register, to meet this legislation, ship operators are now being confronted with having to select the ballast water treatment solution which will work for them.

Dr Reynolds, who is responsible for developing the guide, said: “The intention of the guide is to help ship yards, owners, operators, regulators and other stakeholders understand the availability and approval status of commercial solutions and provide an insight into the different technologies involved.

“This revision provides updated information on suppliers and the solutions that they provide, and demonstrates the increasing commercial availability of approved ballast water treatment systems.”

The updated publication has been produced by Lloyd's Register in conjunction with the Institute for the Environment, Brunel University, UK and can be ordered at .

Pic: Mnemiopsis ledyi