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Onboard Treatment of Ballast Water (Technologies Development and Applications) and Application of Low-sulphur Marine Fuel


Onboard Treatment of Ballast Water (Technologies Development and Applications) and Application of Low-sulphur Marine Fuel

Background & policy context: 

Shipping trade and activities have long been a major industry in Europe. Currently, European Economic Area (EEA) ship owners represent about 40% of the world merchant fleet. Ninety percent of the EU’s external trade and 40% of trade by volume between the member States are carried by sea. Thus any improvements that can lead to reduced environmental impacts from shipping are important for maintaining or improving the quality of the marine environment. Ballast water has been recognised as one of the major vectors for the transfer of aquatic organisms across bio-geographical boundaries. Hundreds of non-indigenous species from different parts of the world have been introduced into European waters, particularly Northern Europe.


  • to investigate methodologies and technologies for preventing the introduction of nonindigenous species through ships' ballast water;
  • to develop design tools and treatment equipment to be used in the further development of ballast water treatment techniques;
  • to assess the effectiveness, safety, and environmental and economic aspects of current and newly developed methods;
  • to develop cost-effective (capital and operating), safe, environmentally friendly onboard ballast water treatment methods, which have a minimum impact on ship operations;
  • to produce guidelines for crew training and criteria for selecting appropriate ballast water management method;
  • to assess the financial, technical and operational effects of a sulphur cap on marine bunker fuel in European waters, and propose a verification scheme ensuring compliance with a sulphur cap from all players in the market;
  • to help to facilitate the introduction of an important sulphur emission abatement.
  • collection and assessment of data and information on ballast water management methods and existing relevant legislation, and a review and update of alien species introductions in European waters;
  • development of selected methods for onboard treatment of ballast water through lab-scale testing and in-depth analysis;
  • large and full-scale testing of selected ballast water treatment methods;
  • assessment of the financial, technical and operational effects of a sulphur cap on marine bunker fuel in European waters.
Institution Type:
Institution Name: 
European Commission, Directorate-General for Energy and Transport (DG TREN)
Type of funding:
Key Results: 

A test mixture called “MARTOB soup” was proposed and prepared. All techniques (at the laboratory scale of operation) were tested and their biological effectiveness assessed. MARTOB included an assessment of environmental impacts of ballast water treatment technologies tested within the project.

Safety of the selected treatment methods was investigated and MARTOB considered the majority of possible concerns to be related to operational aspects. Assessment of management technologies has not been limited to their biological effectiveness only, other criteria such as their compatibility with a particular ship and her route, overall cost, safety, crew, life cycle assessment, corrosion effects and many other factors have been considered here as ranking criteria with their individual weighting in the final assessment.

Many technologies tested in MARTOB have shown that at laboratory and smaller scale, it could be possible to comply with the Convention. Nevertheless, up-scaling such systems to cope with large discharge rates of Ballast Water on heavily ballasted ships requires significant technological development.


Technical Implications

Internal design of ballast water tanks in new ship designs, although difficult to implement, must consider minimising the number of places where organisms could shelter and provide ease of flow and full discharge of ballast water and sludge removal. Design of ballast water treatment technologies should provide facilities for easy sampling before and after treatment for both prototypes and full-scale systems. Ballast water transfer pumps (at full size and laboratory scale) play an important role in killing organisms. If they are not a part of the treatment, sampling ports should be designed in such away to disregard pumps’ effects.

Policy implications

To increase the level of enforceability of regulations, MARTOB strongly suggests that an approved procedure for “Treatment System Type Approval” must be put in place. There must be a clear distinction between “sampling for research purposes” and “sampling for monitoring and compliance with Regulations”. Once a system has been tested and verified, coast authorities, similar to their inspections for ballast water management documents, may seek evidence of active operation of such equipment or system which could be digitally logged or monitored during operation.

MARTOB has paved the way towards establishment of a unified approach for treatment systems’ type approval; experiences learned, MARTOB soup and test protocols must be developed further and used in any future research. MARTOB suggests that additional research and development funds should be provided (through appropriate channels at national, continental and international levels) to enable technologists and scientists to proceed with further development.



MAN B&W Diesel A/S


Environmental and Marine Biology; VTT Industrial Systems

Institut Français De Recherche Pour L’Exploitation De La Mer; Bureau Veritas


Environmental Protection Engineering S.A.


SINTEF Materials and Chemistry; Norwegian Marine Technology Research Institute; Shell Marine Products AS; Fueltech AS; Norwegian Shipowners' Association


Alfa Laval AB; SSPA Sweden AB; Wallenius Wilhelmsen

The Netherlands:

TNO Environment; Energy and Process Innovation; TME Instituut voor Toegepaste MIlieu Economie; Berson UV-teckniek; Van den Heuvel Watertechnologie

United Kingdom:
University of Newcastle upon Tyne; FRS Marine Laboratory, Associated Bulk Carriers Lt; The International Association of Independent Tanker Owners; Three Quays Marine Services Ltd; International Chamber of Shipping

University of Newcastle upon Tyne
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