Technology
18.05.2016 //
Text:
Arja Vartia

Ballast Water Must Be Purified Next Year

Ballast water will be the next to be affected by the tightening environmental regulations in marine traffic. 

In February 2004, the International Maritime Organization IMO approved the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments. The convention aims to prevent the spread of alien animal and plant species to new environments from ballast water.

The convention that had been prepared for over ten years will come into effect in stages after at least 30 countries and a minimum of 35 per cent of the world’s merchant fleet tonnage has ratified it.

By the end of April, the convention had been ratified by 34.82 per cent of shipping companies, says Expert Bernt Bergman at the Finnish Shipowners’ Association. According to his estimate, the last 0.2 per cent will be reached in the next couple of months. The regulation will become effective after one year from the date when 35 per cent has been reached, in other words, probably next year.

This will lead to costs worth 100,000 to 1.5 million euros to shipping companies depending on the vessel. There are 57 companies delivering acceptable ballast water treatment systems in the world, Finland’s Wärtsilä among them.

– Wärtsilä has two approved water treatment systems and hundreds of installations have already been carried out mainly on new ships in the past four years, says Wärtsilä’s Vice President in Environmental Solutions, Juha Kytölä

After the convention has taken place, old vessels require new water treatment systems in connection with the next drydocking.

Painolastivedet puhdistettava ensi vuonna
There are 57 companies delivering acceptable ballast water treatment systems in the world, Finland’s Wärtsilä among them. Wärtsilä’s Aquarius system in the picture.

– Ships already have the pumps and pipes required for water management so there is no need to install these, Kytölä adds.

Globally, 3–4 billion tons of ballast water is transferred from one harbour to another per year. However, thousands of animal and plant species spread to strange environments with ballast water and sediments. According to IMO’s estimate, the financial costs caused by alien species carried with ballast water amount to tens of billions of euros per year.

The Baltic Sea contains currently 120 alien species of which 25 can be found on the Finnish coast. The alien species may replace the original species of the Baltic Sea’s ecosystem and change the structure and functions of the ecosystem. The American comb jelly has already wiped out the fish stock and the fishing industry in the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea.

The next phase of the marine environment programme focuses on nitrogen emissions.

The Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission approved a road map in the beginning of March including a commitment to submit a proposal for the Baltic Sea to be named as an Nitrogen Oxide Emission Control Area (NECA). The entire Baltic Sea belongs to the NECA area.

According to the road map, the tighter nitrogen oxide emission limits applied in the NECA area would affect new vessels constructed after 1 January 2021, when these vessels operate in this area. The potential additional costs will accumulate to shipping companies and transportation customers in stages as new vessels are being constructed.