Ballast water is critical to the safe operation of ocean-going vessels. However, during ballast water exchange, thousands of aquatic organisms and pathogens can stowaway and be transported from one part of the world to another. The transfer of these organisms in ships' ballast water can have devastating effects on the marine environment and ultimately the health and well-being of the people who depend on it. The International Maritime Organisation 2004 Ballast Water Convention was drawn up to address these issues. With implementation of this convention, it is estimated that 68,000 vessels will require functional, certified ballast water treatment systems by 2016.
To date discussion has largely centred around which type of treatment technology is most suited to the task. However, this has overshadowed an important aspect of the new regulations which must form part of the overall treatment regime in order to be effective in ensuing environmental compliance, that of point of discharge measurement to ensure correct  treatment. This is where Chelsea Technologies Group comes in.  They have been working closely with both manufacturers of treatment systems and the certification authorities responsible for the formulation of testing criteria, to develop sensors capable of operating at the IMO level of compliance.

The new FastBallast Fast Repetition Rate fluorometer (FRRf) allows operators to monitor ballast water in real time to the IMO D2 standard (10 to 50 μm category).  This FRRf method has been specifically developed for working with phytoplankton within an aqueous phase at low optical density, exactly the conditions encountered in ballast water. Using the inherent high sensitivity of FastBallast, the variable fluorescence of  live viable phytoplankton cells in moving ballast water can be monitored to the levels required by the IMO D2 standard. To ensure that phytoplankton from all  groups are detected, FastBallast uses three LED excitation channels, with emission peaks at 450, 530 and 624 nm. Each measurement takes only 200 μs, which means that data can be collected from fast moving water (up to two metres of linear flow per second), typically when installed in ballast tanks or water treatment system piping.

The challenge for ballast water treatment system manufacturers is that they must convince the ship owners that their systems operate to IMO standards. Having an online monitoring system, such as the FastBallast will not only indicate treatment satisfaction but also provide information for process control, which will ultimately lead to more efficient use of UV treatment dosage and minimise the use of raw materials in chemical treatment methods.

FastBallast will enable ship operators to determine if their ballast water treatment systems are working correctly and provide evidence to the port state control. The technology also lends itself to be packaged into a hand held unit for use onboard by the PSC themselves. This will give the operators real time confidence in their treatment systems and will avoid unnecessary downtime for the vessel.

For more information please visit