Design & Engineering Standards

8/15/2016: Recent visit to BWMS testing facility gives insight into procedures, challenges

Rear Adm. Paul Thomas discusses ballast water management system testing procedures with Marine Environmental Resource Center (MERC) Director Mario Tamburri during a recent visit to the MERC, located in Baltimore. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Rear Adm. Paul Thomas discusses ballast water management system testing procedures with Marine Environmental Resource Center (MERC) Director Mario Tamburri during a recent visit to the MERC, located in Baltimore. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

As independent labs across the U.S. continue to test ballast water management systems for U.S. type-approval, the U.S. Coast Guard remains fully invested in the process and future of these systems and looks forward to the approval of a U.S. type-approved system that meets the standards of the ballast water regulations.

Coast Guard Assistant Commandant for Prevention Policy Rear Adm. Paul Thomas, Director of Commercial Regulations and Standards Mr. Jeff Lantz and other members of their staffs recently visited the Maritime Environmental Resource Center (MERC), located in Baltimore, in order to see the testing environment, gain insight into the testing procedures and protocols, and speak with the scientists about ballast water management system testing challenges.

The MERC provides testing facilities, expertise and decision tools for key environmental issues that face the international maritime industry. Its partners include the U.S. Maritime Administration, Smithsonian Institute and the University of Maryland.

Leading this initiative is Director Mario Tamburri, a professor at the University of Maryland with more than 15 years of expertise in researching the spread of invasive species through ballast water.

The MERC operates a barge based in Baltimore harbor, which allows Tamburri and his team the flexibility to move to different locations in order to get different data from various environments. Tamburri said the MERC is currently focused on conducting land-based and shipboard testing for type approval of ballast water management systems and can test two systems per year.

“We want to get data,” he said.

There are over 60 manufacturers of foreign type-approved ballast water management systems, and many are pursing U.S. type approval by utilizing Coast Guard accepted labs, such as MERC, to test their systems in accordance with the regulations and ETV Protocol.

Onboard the MERC, the system begins with a flexible hose that can be tailored to take in water from different depths, based on various environmental aspects. The goal is to get as many organisms as possible to test the ballast water management system.

By utilizing this method, “we’ve never had to augment biology,” Tamburri said.

With this visit, the Coast Guard was able to gain an insight from current testing facilities and continued to monitor the progression towards a U.S. type-approved ballast water management system.

“We understand the challenges faced by the various types of treatment systems, and we continue to have discussions with our five designated Independent Labs to capture the lessons learned,” said Thomas. “Although the regulations and test protocol are not perfect, they are the best available type approval test requirements, and we’ll continue to work with our stakeholders to improve the next generation of testing regulations and protocols.”

Rear Adm. Paul Thomas discusses ballast water management system testing procedures with Marine Environmental Resource Center (MERC) Director Mario Tamburri during a recent visit to the MERC, located in Baltimore. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Rear Adm. Paul Thomas discusses ballast water management system testing procedures with Marine Environmental Resource Center (MERC) Director Mario Tamburri during a recent visit to the MERC, located in Baltimore. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

This blog is not a replacement or substitute for the formal posting of regulations and updates or existing processes for receiving formal feedback of the same. Links provided on this blog will direct the reader to official source documents, such as the Federal Register, Homeport and the Code of Federal Regulations. These documents remain the official source for regulatory information published by the Coast Guard.