Protocol for the Verification of Ballast Water Compliance Monitoring Devices

Working Group on Ballast and other Ship Vectors publish what they hope will serve as a standardized framework for the verification testing of CMDs.
Published: 1 July 2020

​​​​​​​When not fully loaded with cargo, ships use ballast water for stability and trim. However, that water can contain many live organisms that, when released into waters of another port, can become invasive. Invasive species have contributed to the decline and disappearance of native ones and the collapse of local fisheries, caused damage to infrastructure, and cost billions of dollars per year in lost revenue and control costs. The zebra mussel’s colonization of the Great Lakes Region in North America is one of famous examples of an invasive species.

According to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), 10 billion tonnes of ballast water are transported every year onboard ships, making it one of the most important vectors for aquatic invasive species. There are an estimated 7000 species transferred in ballast water every hour of every day.

Concerns have resulted in agreements and regulatory requirements 

In 2004, a framework for global regulations was introduced through the adoption of the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments (BWM Convention). This sought to control the transfer of potentially invasive species through the management of ballast water and sediment by ships. The success of the BWM Convention in minimizing the risk of invasive species is dependent on the ballast water released from ships being in compliance with discharge standards. However, while there are typically formal inspections and reviews of ship ballast water management records, there are very few direct assessments of ballast water samples to determine if discharges meet the allowable levels of organisms. This is because full, detailed testing of ballast discharges can be time consuming, complex and costly and because compliance monitoring devices (CMDs) to conduct indicative testing have not been verified for use following a universally accepted protocol for their verification.​ 

Compliance monitoring

According to ICES-Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC)-IMO Working Group on Ballast and other Ship Vectors (WGBOSV), a variety of ballast water CMDs have been developed. However the accuracy, precision, detection limits, and reliability of CMDs must be quantified for their use, including in regulatory enforcement. This includes various sensors, instruments, kits, methods, and assays that have been designed to assess compliance with ballast water discharge standards and requirements, as well as several novel CMD approaches that are also currently being explored.

Rigorous, transparent, and standardized verification testing is needed for these devices to be adopted and implemented globally, by multiple administrations (i.e. countries, governments, or jurisdictions) to enforce compliance monitoring. According to WGBOSV, not all of the existing CMDs have been tested by an independent, third-party testing organization and none have been tested in a universally accepted, standardized way, due to a lack of consensus on robust verification protocols.​

Latest publication​

With the latest TIMES, volume 63, Protocol for the Verification of Ballast Water Compliance Monitoring Devices, WGBOSV present what they hope will serve as a standardized framework for the verification testing of CMDs. Co-author Mario Tamburri (University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science) states that, “through collaboration with experts from around the world, the group has developed a standardized protocol for how to verify the performance of devices that are used to monitor for compliance with regulations on ship ballast water discharge.  This verification testing will provide the ballast water management system manufacturers, ship owners and operators, and regulatory and enforcement agencies with the critical information needed to use these devices”. Co-author Lisa Drake (SGS Global Marine Services) adds  “We are working to knit this information into guidance documents that are being developed by international organizations, so a robust protocol is universally available.”

The publication is aimed at researchers, developers/ manufacturers of CMDs, regulators, and enforcement agencies.

ICES TIMES Vol. 63, Protocol for the Verification of Ballast Water Compliance Monitoring Devices, is now available to download and view in ICES library.

​ICES-IOC-IMO Working Group on Ballast and other Ship Vectors (WGBOSV) provides scientific support to the development of international measures aimed at reducing the risk of transporting non-native species via shipping activities.

WGBOSVs work contributes to Impacts of human activities and Emerging techniques and technologies, two of ICES science priorities that support our Strategic Plan. Discover our seven interrelated scientific priorities and how our network will address them​ in our Science Plan: “Marine ecosystem and sustainability science for the 2020s and beyond”​.

Print this pagePrint it Request newsletterSend to Post to Facebook Post to Twitter Post to LinkedIn Share it

​​Tanker discharges ballast water.​

c FollowFollow Focus on ContentFocus on Content
HelpGive Feedback

Protocol for the Verification of Ballast Water Compliance Monitoring Devices

International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) · Conseil International pour l'Exploration de la Mer (CIEM)
ICES Secretariat · H. C. Andersens Boulevard 44-46, DK 1553 Copenhagen V, Denmark · Tel: +45 3338 6700 · Fax: +45 3393 4215 ·
Disclaimer Privacy policy · © ICES - All Rights Reserved