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NIOZ Ballast Water Test Facility

NIOZ has been involved in the evaluation and certification of ballast water treatment systems since 2004, making it one of the test centres with the longest operating experience worldwide. Between 2007 and 2012, 10 full scale land-based IMO G8 or G9 tests have been carried out for Final and Type Approval.

The Ballast Water Research Group is embedded in the Department of Biological Oceanography. As part of the research done at the Department several methods have been developed to count and characterize different classes of planktonic organisms, including viability, and a large number of abiotic variables. This set of analytical methods forms the core of the measurements required for the land-based tests which are part of the requirements for the certification of Ballast Water Management Systems (BWTS). Besides the certification testing, the group is also involved in further method development for land-based and shipboard testing and the development of rapid, and simple to interpret, analytical compliance monitoring and enforcement tools for the responsible authorities. Ecotoxicological testing, and the determination of disinfection by-products, are carried out in cooperation with partner institutes.

The NIOZ institute with its laboratories and its harbour is situated on the island of Texel. The harbour is located on the border of the western Wadden Sea and the coastal North Sea, which is a highly productive shallow sea area with a large variety of natural plankton.

Lloyd’s Register has, after inspection, confirmed that NIOZ has the required infrastructure, procedures and experience to fulfil all the requirements as a land-based testing facility for the testing of BWTS in accordance with IMO resolution MEPC.174(58).

Biological Invasions: A Global Problem

Ships transport five to ten billion tons of ballast water annually over the globe. This ballast water is loaded with sediment particles and an enormous variety of living planktonic organisms ranging from juvenile stages, larvae and eggs of fish and larger zooplankton to macro algae, phytoplankton, bacteria, Archaea and viruses. In general, these organisms belong to the natural ecosystem in and around the port of origin but they might not be occurring naturally in the coastal waters and port of destination. In hundreds of cases around the world, this has resulted in severe damage to the receiving ecosystem, because several of these non-indigenous organisms developed into a plague. This can have a high impact on the natural ecosystem and can cause significant ecological and economic damage if it results in a decrease of stocks of commercially valuable fish and shellfish species. The problem of invasive species is considered to be one of the four major threats of the world’s oceans next to land-based marine pollution, overexploitation of living marine resources, and physical alteration/destruction of habitats.

To minimize these risks for the future, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) of the United Nations has adopted the Ballast Water Management Convention (BWMC) in 2004. The BWMC states that all ships (>50,000 in number) should install proper BWTS on board between 2009 and 2016, depending on building date and ballast water tonnage. Although at present the number of countries ratifying the BWMC has well exceeded the required minimum of 30, the required tonnage has not yet reached the required 35% of the global shipping tonnage. The general expectation is that the BWMC will be signed by enough countries to match the required tonnage in the course of 2013 and will then automatically come into force exactly one year after that date. As a temporary solution, ships may reduce the risk of invasive species by performing ballast water exchange (BWE) during their voyage when passing through deep and salt water far from a coast (>200 m depth and 200 NM from the coast).

Testing of Ballast Water Treatment Systems

NIOZ has already collaborated with various national authorities for Type Approval of BWTS (Germany, UK, Greece and the Netherlands).

» Description of tests according to the G8 guidelines

For systems making use of active substances (G9), we also offer tests for Basic and Final Approval.

» Description of tests according to the G9 guidelines

The actual land-based tests are conducted at the NIOZ harbour, while the analyses are carried out in the nearby NIOZ laboratories. Our certified third partners carry out the ecotoxicology tests and determine the levels of disinfection by-products (IMARES), and carry out the shipboard tests (GoConsult).

The full-scale certification tests are often preceded by small scale tests, to prove the concept of a BWTS, and tests of filter systems. By the end of 2012, 12 “proof of concept” tests and 12 filter performance tests had been conducted.

Between 2007 and 2012, 10 full scale land-based tests had been carried out for Final and Type Approval of which 8 have received Type Approval so far.

» Overview of the systems that have been tested at NIOZ

The complete Type Approval documents can be found on the websites of the respective authorities:

  • BSH (The Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency of Germany)
  • MCA (Marine and Coastguard Agency, UK)

Till now we have worked according to the IMO G8 and G9 standards, but from 2013 onwards we are offering ballast water testing under the Environmental Technology Verification protocol (ETV Protocol) of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) requirements as well.

Testing of Filters

Besides testing complete ballast water treatment systems, NIOZ also tests filters for ballast water treatment. Different aspects in our filter test protocol are:

  • Increasing loads of fluid mud are added to the intake water via a small pump to measure the maximum sediment load a filter is able to cope with. Our basic mud is resuspended natural sediment taken from the nearby ‘Mokbaai’, but different types of TSS can be fed into the system.
  • Plankton organisms behave differently from mud particles, as they have other shapes and are easier to squeeze through the mesh of a filter. We check how the natural community of organisms is retained by different filters.
  • Endurance test: See how a filter runs over a longer time period without any interference.

Test Facility

The ballast water test facility is situated at the NIOZ harbour adjacent to the Marsdiep, the tidal inlet between the North Sea and the Western Wadden Sea. The origin of the test water changes with the tide. During high tide we have access to higher salinity water, as relatively saline North Sea water (~30 g/L) enters the Wadden Sea. The relative contribution of fresh water increases during ebb tide and therefore, the intake during low tide will result in seawater of a lower salinity (~25 g/L). We can make 10% or 3 PSU adaptations to this by adding either potable water at low tide or adding a saturated brine solution from a tank-container around high tide.

The water at this location is characterized by a high biodiversity. In spring and summer the natural plankton assemblage generally contains sufficiently high numbers of organisms between 10 and 50 µm and organisms >50 µm for the tests of ballast water treatment systems under natural conditions.

For freshwater testing, water with a PSU <1 is brought by ship from nearby Lake IJssel to the NIOZ harbour. Using a plankton-friendly submersible pump, the test water is fed into the test facility’s piping system and the BWTS to be tested, in the same way as NIOZ harbour water. The low UV transmission range of this water presents an extra challenge to UV-based BWTS.

The test site consists of two quays, the Pelagia quay and the Navicula quay (named after the two NIOZ research vessels). Each quay is equipped with three tanks, each with a volume of 300 m³ which simulate the ballast water tanks of a ship necessary for official land based tests. Water can be pumped with a capacity up to 250 m³/h.

The Ballast Water Team

The NIOZ Ballast Water team currently consists of 16 people and is led by Dr Jan Boon (Management) and Dr Louis Peperzak (Research & Development). Two PhD students carry out their research projects on measurements done at the ballast water treatment facility or on complementary experiments and analyses. In addition, a number of master students are working in the ballast water research group.

» Team NIOZ Ballast Water