The Role of the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments (BWM) in the Face of Newfound Ballast Technologies

The Role of the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments (BWM) in the Face of Newfound Ballast Technologies

The introduction of water ballast systems as a mainstream methodology revolutionized navigation, but it also saw the rise of a new form of pollution and harmful manipulation of the ocean. As a result, organizations such as the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments (BWM) were instituted to curb and regulate the potential damage caused by water ballasting.

The New World of Shipping

Towards the end of the 20th century, the world saw a massive rise in the presence of enormous ships and their involvement in global trade. These oceanic titans navigate across the world on a daily basis, their crews working tirelessly to keep the world economy abreast.

When new ballast technologies were introduced, and ships and their hulls were upgraded with more durable steel components, seawater could now replace solid materials. This new system allowed for a far more conventional and accessible navigational development and overall procedure.


Biological Invasions as a Result

These breakthroughs have also, however, brought a rise in the rate of Invasive Aquatic Species transference across the world, now on levels far higher than ever witnessed before. One of the main concerns of this international invasions is the spreading of potentially lethal DNA viruses. The long distances traveled means that these viruses have a rich and dank environment to foster within, often for a lengthy period of time as ships traverse between continents.

Upon reaching new shores, a ship will then pump out its ballast water when entering a harbor, causing this now very powerful virus to easily make its way through shallow waters and onto land, causing a proliferation of infection.

The Role of the BWM

Since 2004, the BWM has begun dealing with the volatility of aquatic invaders and viruses being transported around the world by ships, and their water ballast practices. This has been achieved through the introduction of more stringent standards.

This has been achieved by allships carrying water ballasts to strictly adhere to water ballast exchange plans. They also need to keep records and certificates identifying just what their ships are carrying ballast-wise, all adhering to mutually-agreed upon international agreements.

A Change in BWM Practice – The Introduction of Information Technology

This recording process has been achieved through the introduction of monitoring software which utilizes a software called ATP 2G. This software is designed in accordance with the SGS Group and BWM Convention Guidelines, and has been carefully streamlined to be completely functional and usable with water ballast monitoring and purification efforts.

Such software can analyze and provide a detailed overview of the bioorganic contents of a ballast tank in under an hour. The best kind of software and sensors provide a thorough description of the the three fractions, which are bacteria, 10-50 µm, and >50 µm, which are all in accordance and compliance with the standard discharge regulatory bodies.

The following biochemical compounds must be identified as part of these regulations:

  • The discrimination between microorganisms and more complex life forms in terms of size classifications
  • The extensive compartmentalization of ATP intracellular technology
  • The calculation of ATP as pgcATP or sample volume
  • The translation of pgcATP or sample volume into a statement of compliance

These regulations have been steadily phased in over the years, the administration of such a massive reform on such an enormous sector of human trade obviously taking a lengthy period of time to come into effect.

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