Testing facility for ballast water management systems (BWMS)

Since 2013, Wageningen Marine Research has operated a testing facility for ballast water management systems (BWMS) in Den Helder. We offer tests for IMO and USCG type approval as well as R&D for your ballast water management system. The facility is uniquely situated near the Wadden Sea estuary, providing easy access to marine (North Sea), brackish (Wadden Sea) and fresh (Lake IJssel) water. Through the innovative ‘Feedtank’ cultivation system, we ensure reliable and predictable access to test water from March until October. Any toxicity tests required for certification are performed in-house.

  • Testfaciliteit voor ballastwater-behandelingssystemen (BWMS)

Why treat ballast water?

Invasive species in ballast water

For centuries, exotic animal and plant species have dispersed via ships. Initially, they mainly were organisms that had attached themselves to a ship’s hull. The use of ballast water created a new vector for dispersal. The intensification of the shipping industry resulted in a steady increase of distribution of invasive species around the world. Exotic plants and animals that end up in the port of arrival via ballast water can cause serious damage to both the local ecosystem as well as the economy, with coastal areas being the most vulnerable.

Ballast Water Management Convention

To limit the spread of invasive species through shipping, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Ballast Water Management Convention was ratified in 2004 and entered into force in 2017. Under the convention, most ships must comply to the D2 discharge standard, which limits the number of live organisms allowed in ballast water discharge. Thus, most ships must be equipped with a certified ballast water management system (BWMS) to meet the D2-standard. The goal of the BWMS is to treat the ballast water and limit the number of living organisms being transported via ballast water.

How does a BWMS work?

The operation of a BWMS typically consists of three steps. First, larger organisms are filtered from the ballast water mechanically, after which remaining organisms (mainly microalgae and bacteria) are killed using UV light or chemicals. At discharge, a second UV dose or chemical-neutralisation step is performed. For type approval, it must be demonstrated that the BWMS effectively removes organisms and that the ballast water is not harmful to the crew, general public and the environment.

Our solutions for your BWMS

Complete package of fresh, brackish, and marine water tests

Wageningen Marine Research is part of the Control Union Certification Independent Laboratory (CUC-IL). USCG type approval testing is conducted with the supervision of CUC-IL.

Wageningen Marine Research offers manufacturers a complete package of testing and dossier preparation for the type approval of your BWMS. The evaluation follows the requirements of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and/or the United States Coast Guard (USCG) Environmental Technology Verification (ETV) protocol.

In addition to the standardised type approval tests, Wageningen Marine Research also provides R&D testing of prototypes and stress-testing of systems under rare circumstances, by which we finetune the challenge conditions per your requirements.

Our services and work methods

Preparation of dossiers (G9 Basic Approval en Final Approval)

Wageningen Marine Research can assist you in preparing the G9 Basic Approval and Final Approval dossier for the IMO per the GESAMP-BWWG methodology, which is required for chemical-based systems. 

Pilot system tests

Wageningen Marine Research can perform smaller-scale R&D tests of your pilot system to determine how effective the system is under different circumstances and when appropriate, how improvements could be implemented. The Basic Approval tests can also be performed during these pilot tests.

Whole Effluent Toxicity (WET) testing

Under IMO G9 guidelines, ballast water systems that use a biocide require a Risk Assessment, using toxicity testing, during the pilot (Basic Approval) and during type approval testing (Final Approval). Wageningen Marine Research can perform these Whole Effluent Toxicity (WET) tests and coordinate the associated analysis of the Disinfection ByProducts (DBPs) to complete the risk assessment. Under certain conditions, the IMO G9 risk assessment is also accepted by US Coast Guard.

Land-based testing: Type Approval (IMO BWMS Code)

We provide the full scale of land-based tests with any type of water for type approval of your ballast water management system. For shipboard testing, we often collaborate with GoConsult and DavidConsult (GCDC).

Research and development

We can also determine the efficacy limits of a BWMS. We test systems using a series of extra challenging water characteristics such as high Dissolved Organic Carbon (DOC) or suspended solids concentrations, winter conditions, or extreme plankton concentrations. Although it is not required under current legislation, this may yield valuable information for producers and potential customers.

Our testing facility may also be used to test the effectiveness of filters and filtration systems and to conduct comparison tests between different types of filters.

Ballast water testing facility specifications

The facility includes a 700 cubic metre test water tank (feedtank) and two test tanks of 250 cubic metres each. Fresh, brackish, and marine water are readily available at a short distance, often with sufficient organism densities. If required, Wageningen Marine Research supplements the number of organisms in the water to satisfy the requirements. We inject a mixture of different substances directly inline to comply with the minimum requirements of Dissolved Organic Carbon (DOC), Particulate Organic Carbon (POC), Total Suspended Solids (TSS), Mineral Matter (MM) and Particulate Organic Matter (POM) in the test water.

Expertise and experience

Since 2006, a team of experts at Wageningen Marine Research has been involved with the risk assessment of ballast water treatment systems that make use of active ingredients as established in IMO guideline G9. In that time, several BWMS have been tested using different bioanalyses.

From 2009, a full-scale test facility is operational, providing land-based efficacy tests in accordance with the IMO BWMS Code and USCG ETV protocol.

Our team of experts in the area of ecology, biology, and ecotoxicology will ensure that all requirements in IMO and/or USCG guidelines are satisfied. Our team works closely together with accredited laboratories for chemical and bacteriological analyses.

Dossiers 2020

In 2020, the following dossiers have been completed and approved, for which we carried out the land-based tests in cooperation with CUC-IL:

  • Kuraray, Microfade II: IMO & USCG type approval
  • JFE Engineering Corporation, BallastAce: USCG type approval

Do you have a question about testing your BWMS? Ask our expert: