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. It offers R&D and certification tests for your ballast water management system. We can test using all types of water (fresh, brackish, and marine) for prototype testing/ development, but also for IMO and US Coast Guard certification. The toxicity tests required for the certification can be conducted in our own laboratory.

  • Testfaciliteit voor ballastwater-behandelingssystemen (BWMS)




























Why test ballast water?

Invasive species in ballast water

For centuries, different animal and plant species have travelled with ships. Initially they were mainly organisms that had attached themselves to the ship’s hull, but the use of ballast water created a new vector for dispersal. The intensification of the shipping industry resulted in a steadily 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 entered into force in 2007. Under the convention, all ships must be equipped with a certified ballast water management system (BWMS). The goal of the BWMS is to ensure that no living organisms are transported between locations via the ballast water.

How does a BWMS work?

The operation of a BWMS usually consists of two 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. For certification, it must be demonstrated that the BWMS effectively removes organisms and that the ballast water is no longer toxic when it is discharged. This is why chemical disinfection makes use of unstable chemical substances that are neutralised before the discharge.


Our solutions for your BMWS

Complete package of fresh, brackish, and marine water tests

Wageningen Marine Research offers producers of ballast water management systems a complete package of research and dossier preparation for the testing and assessment of their systems. The assessment will be performed in the context of certification, in accordance with the guidelines of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) as well as the United States Coast Guard (USCG) Environmental Technology Verification (ETV).

In addition to the standardised certification tests, Wageningen Marine Research can also assist in R&D research of prototypes and testing of systems under special circumstances in which the characteristics of the test water can be adjusted as desired.

Our services and work methods

Preparation of dossiers (Basic Approval en Final Approval)

Wageningen Marine Research can assist you in preparing the Basic Approval and Final Approval dossier for the IMO. We are a member of the Control Union Certification Independent Laboratory which guides the creation of USCG dossier. We can conduct the land-based ballast water tests and WET tests for you.

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 approriate, 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 also require toxicity testing during the pilot (Basic Approval) and for the Type Approval (Final Approval). Wageningen Marine Research can perform these WET (Whole Effluent Toxicity) tests and organise associated analysis of the DBPs (Desinfection ByProducts) for you. The process is slightly different for the US Coast Guard, but the IMO documents will be accepted.

Testing on land: Type Approval (IMO G8)

We can perform the land-based tests with any type of water for the Type Approval of your ballast water management system. We do not perform shipboard testing ourselves, but we can bring you in contact with companies that have expertise in this area, or organise it for you.

Technology development

In addition to testing systems in accordance with established IMO and USCG standards we can also determine the efficacy limits of a BWMS. We can 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 can 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 testing facility includes one 700 cubic metre storage tank and two testing tanks of 250 cubic metres each. Fresh, brackish, and marine water are available at a short distance, generally with sufficiently  high organism densities. If required, Wageningen Marine Research can supplement the number of organisms in the water to satisfy the requirements. It is also possible to inject a mixture of different substances directly into the line to comply with the required amounts 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, the research into BWMS has been expanded with efficacy tests that are conducted in accordance with IMO guideline G8 at the laboratory and realistic scales at a testing facility on land.

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. The team works closely together with certified laboratories for the required chemical and bacteriological analyses.

Wageningen Marine Research is part of the Control Union Certification Independent Laboratory (CUC-IL).

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