As we go about our busy lives, consuming goods and shopping for more, we give little thought to the fact that 80 to 90% of the world’s commodities find their way from one shore to another via large oceangoing transport ships. So self-absorbed are we in our own personal space, we give even less thought as to what implications all this international shipping may have on our home waters.
Each year more than 10 billion metric tons of seaboard trade takes place. Keeping this world trade in motion are some 90,000 ships traveling from one destination to the next. These ships are the workhorses of commerce, carrying goods and commodities from their point of origin to their assigned destination. But these ships also take along some special guests, not by choice but by virtue of the ships critical ballast water system.
Who are these Stowaways?
Every port’s waters has its own marine ecosystem which often includes aquatic organisms and sometimes even pathogens indigenous to their region. If there is a need to add ballast to aid in the ships stability, through the ship’s ballast water system, port water is collected in various ballast tanks. It is in these ballast tanks that the local aquatic organisms stow away for the voyage.
What Are The Dangers of these Stowaways?
If the contents of a ships ballast tanks were relieved in another port, thousands of miles away, there is a chance that non indigenous aquatic organisms could be introduced into the local marine ecosystem.
The introduction of non indigenous aquatic organisms could have little or no effect on the local marine life or the effects could be devastation. These ecosystems have taken thousands and even millions of years to evolve. They are fragile however, and through a single and unintentional act of the allowing a nonindigenous aquatic organism to enter the ecosystem, its delicate balance could be shattered.
Implementing the Solution
Through the work performed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and other maritime regulating bodies, large transport ships are now required to utilize a ballast water treatment system to ensure that no nonindigenous marine life is transferred to other marine ecosystems. These systems typically employ a combination of technologies including mechanical separation along with both physical and chemical treatments.
Over the past decade there have been strict regulation and mandatory compliance measures put in place to ensure the protection of our fragile marine ecosystems. Failure to do so would all but insure the extinction of many native marine features and pose a major threat to our world’s oceans. Transport ship’s ballast water treatment systems are an integral part of the compliance measures that have been put in place by the IMO to ensure that these ships do not sail with unwanted travelers.