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Advances being made in ballast water treatment systems

 Great Ships Initiative and the maritime industry team up for solutions

Minnesota Lt. Governor Yvonne Prettner Solon spoke at a recent event showcasing advances being made in ballast water treatment, type-testing, and shipboard monitoring, and how those results are moving the maritime industry toward environmental sustainability. 

“Great Ships Initiative is a shining example of leadership and cooperation, not only of the experts who work here, but also of federal, provincial and state officials; port directors; environmental groups; transportation officials; maritime organizations; and the scientific community. Such a diverse group of collaborators may not always agree on a concept or a technology, but what they can agree upon is state-of-the-art science that independently moves us all toward the common goal of stopping the introduction and spread of invasive species…working together to protect the Great Lakes for future generations.”

“Working collaboratively with the environmental community and the maritime industry, our overarching goal is to halt the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species while allowing maritime commerce to flow using sustainable practices,” said Allegra Cangelosi, president of Northeast-Midwest Institute and director of the Great Ships Initiative. “Specifically, we are helping assure that effective, efficient ballast water management systems (BWMS) that are applicable to fresh water environments like the Great Lakes get type-approved by the U.S. Coast Guard and installed on ships as soon as possible.”

Moving from landside laboratory studies to shipboard testing is key to advancing these goals. For the past four years, American Steamship Company has participated in ballast water treatment testing research onboard their vessel, Indiana Harbor. Currently, the Indiana Harbor is testing a treatment system that pumps lye into the ballast water on board ship to kill invasive species that might be in the ballast tanks. When the lye treatment cycle is completed, carbon dioxide is then used to neutralize the lye so when the ballast water is released into the lake, no harm is done to the lake’s ecosystem.

“American Steamship Company and parent GATX Corporation remain committed to participating in the collaborative effort to seek practical solutions to environmental issues of concern to a broad range of stakeholders in the Great Lakes community,” says Noel Bassett, vice president of operations.  “As a member of that community we feel an obligation to participate in seeking workable solutions to the potential transfer of nonindigenous species.”

Cangelosi said that 15 ballast systems have been tested at GSI over the past six years, including the treatment system now being used on the Indiana Harbor. “Our role is about trying out solutions…so we can get to routine ballast water treatment on all Great Lakes ships. The good news is that everyone is working together to find the answer.”

Duluth Seaway Port Authority executive director Adolph Ojard (who also serves as GSI advisory committee chair and president of the American Great Lakes Ports Association) said, “These collaborative efforts are helping to steer policymaking toward practical ballast water filtration and treatment systems that will rejuvenate fleets, preserve the benefits of commercial shipping and the vibrancy of our port communities, plus protect the environmental and economic health of our Great Lakes for generations to come.”