Cal Maritime vessel to evaluate ballast water treatment systems

California Maritime Academy’s training ship Golden Bear will be the site of a $700,000 project to test ballast water treatment prototypes. (Photos courtesy California Maritime Academy/Doug Webster)

As researchers work worldwide to design and build new ballast treatment systems, a team at California Maritime Academy is finishing work on a facility that they hope will make testing of these new systems easier and more economical.

Poorly treated ballast water can severely impact marine ecosystems by introducing non-native species that at best cause a nuisance and at worst collapse entire fisheries. To address this global threat, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has initiated a timeline in which onboard ballast treatment systems must meet performance standards. While the earliest deadline for most ships is 2012, California has accelerated the deadline to as early as this year.

Once constructed, these systems must be independently tested and certified as meeting the IMO’s standards. This can be a long and expensive process.

“Typically it would cost about $1 million and year’s worth of time to outfit a prototype on a test ship,†said Kevin Reynolds, senior associate at Glosten Associates, a marine engineering consulting firm in Seattle.

Glosten has teamed up with Cal Maritime, the University of Washington and Washington Sea Grant to design and build a testing facility onboard Cal Maritime’s training vessel Golden Bear. The $700,000 project is supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Sea Grant, as well as additional funding from the U.S. Maritime Administration and the California State Lands Commission.

Reynolds said the new ballast water treatment system test facility installed on Golden Bear will make certification of new systems easier and more cost effective than trying to locate and utilize vessels of opportunity, as has been done in the past.

From left, Golden Bear’s master, Capt. Harry Bolton, reviews installation plans with Chief Engineer Bill Davidson, Kevin Reynolds of Glosten Associates and Dan Lintz, the vessel’s chief mate. (Photos courtesy California Maritime Academy/Doug Webster)

“The end goal is to be able to provide a certification testing facility at Cal Maritime,†Reynolds said. “This will be a plug-and-play platform. The system can be installed and tested right on the weather deck of the ship for quick connection testing.â€

The prototype treatment systems can be loaded on board in standard 20-foot containers and connected to the ship’s ballast water tanks and electrical system. University of Washington scientists will test the treated ballast water to be sure it meets the IMO’s standards. The University of Washington and Washington Sea Grant will work with Cal Maritime faculty to develop curriculum that educates cadets about the problems associated with aquatic invasive species and ballast water transfer and treatment technologies.

Reynolds said the test facility is expected to begin basic operations in March. The team will add laboratories and enhancements to the test facility on the ship by fall.

Kate Yeomans

By Professional Mariner Staff