USCG officials visit BWMS test lab

Written by Nick Blenkey
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Rear Adm. Paul Thomas discusses ballast water management system testing procedures with Marine Environmental Resource Center (MERC) Director Mario Tamburri (left) during a recent visit to the MERC, located in Baltimore

AUGUST 16, 2016 — Over 60 manufacturers of ballast water management systems (BWTS) with foreign type-approved are now pursing U.S. type approval by utilizing Coast Guard accepted labs to test their systems in accordance with the regulations and the ETV (Environmental Technology Verification) Protocol.

One of these labs, the Marine Environmental Resource Center (MERC), located in Baltimore, MD, was recently visited by 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.

They came 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.

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.”


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