Great Lakes maritime industry and environmentalists team up to keep ‘critters’ from hitching rides in ships’ ballast waterHow safe is safe? How can we keep aquatic invasive species out of ballast water & out of the Great Lakes? How many organisms discharged from a ship’s ballast tanks are enough to spark an invasion? What ballast water treatment methods would best manage those threats ahead of time? Are microbes – the smallest of organisms (e.g. bacteria and viruses) – a concern?
Researchers from around the world are gathering in the Twin Ports today to share study results and discuss related advances being made in ballast water treatment, type-testing and shipboard monitoring. Workshop participants will report on the ‘science’ behind breakthrough scoping studies funded by the Great Lakes Protection Fund (GLPF), and what those results mean for the maritime industry and the health of our inland waterway.
Scientists, major funders and maritime industry leaders will address significant advances being made in both land-based and shipboard studies and how those results are moving the maritime industry toward environmental sustainability. Two recent studies are being conducted through the auspices of Great Ships Initiative (GSI), the world’s first freshwater ballast water treatment testing facility, located right here in the Duluth-Superior harbor. “Our research demonstrates that microbe monitoring is feasible and cost-effective and important to the environmental and economic health of the region. We don’t have to wait for fish kills to detect a pathogen and act; nor do we have to shut down shipping because a pathogen might be newly dispersed to a lake via a ship’s ballast water,” notes Allegra Cangelosi, president of Northeast-Midwest Institute and Director of the Great Ships Initiative. “Likewise the launch of the Risk Release Project will help standardize protocols within the region to settle disputes among states and stakeholders on ‘how low we should go’ in requirements on live organism discharges from vessels.”
According to Minnesota Lt. Governor Yvonne Prettner Solon, “Great Ships Initiative is a shining example of leadership and cooperation, not only of the experts who work here, but also of federal, provincial and state officials; port directors; environmental groups; transportation officials; maritime organizations; and the scientific community. Such a diverse group of collaborators may not always agree on a concept or a technology, but what they can agree upon is state-of-the-art science that independently moves us all toward the common goal of stopping the introduction and spread of invasive species…working together to protect the Great Lakes for future generations.”
“By identifying threshold amounts of potential microbial invaders discharged from ships’ ballast tanks, we can prevent those species from becoming established in our harbors,” adds Cangelosi, “Research studies conducted by independent labs like GSI and these funded by the Great Lakes Protection Fund are a crucial evaluation step in the type-testing process. Working collaboratively with the environmental community and the maritime industry, our overarching goal is to halt the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species while allowing maritime commerce to flow using sustainable practices. Specifically, we are helping assure that effective, efficient ballast water management systems (BWMS) that are applicable to fresh water environments like the Great Lakes get type-approved by the U.S. Coast Guard and installed on ships as soon as possible.”
Moving from landside bench studies to shipboard testing is key to advancing these goals, which is why GSI and GLPF are so appreciative of the commitment made by American Steamship Company and Midwest Energy Resources Co., for their willingness to have ballast water research conducted onboard the Indiana Harbor while the 1,000-foot laker is docked at MERC’s coal terminal in Superior.
“American Steamship Company and parent GATX Corporation remain committed to participating in the collaborative effort to seek practical solutions to environmental issues of concern to a broad range of stakeholders in the Great Lakes community,” says Noel Bassett, vice president of operations. “As a member of that community we feel an obligation to participate in seeking workable solutions to the potential transfer of nonindigenous species. Our involvement in ballast water treatment testing research on our Indiana Harbor is in its fourth year, and has been an extremely positive experience. Through our participation we have had the rewarding opportunity to support the efforts of a long list of extremely dedicated and capable people and agencies – a truly diverse group with an amazing ability to work collaboratively in search of solutions.”
“Since its inception, the Great Lakes Protection Fund has awarded over $60 million in grants to support projects that enhance the health of the Great Lakes ecosystem, including funding a series of projects to tackle the challenge of invasive species,” notes Craig Shaver, GLPF board chair. “These investments have been a cornerstone in the global ballast water treatment industry that could be worth well over $30 billion over the next decade.”
Though unable to be present for the press conference, Duluth Seaway Port Authority executive director Adolph Ojard (who also serves as GSI advisory committee chair and president of the American Great Lakes Ports Association) sent his comments, “These collaborative efforts are helping to steer policymaking toward practical ballast water filtration and treatment systems that will rejuvenate fleets, preserve the benefits of commercial shipping and the vibrancy of our port communities, plus protect the environmental and economic health of our Great Lakes for generations to come.”
Great Ships Initiative is part of the Northeast-Midwest Institute (NEMWI), a private non-profit corporation located in Washington, DC. The GSI facility in Superior, Wis., houses a full-fledged land based test platform and an experienced team of scientists and consultants capable of conducting shipboard and supporting bench testing. NEMWI is focused on a range of scientific and policy research to bring the 18-state NEMWI region toward a more environmentally sustainable future. The GSI testing facility is located at 22 19th Ave. E. in Superior, adjacent to Elevator O; entrance is at 21st Ave. E., across Hwy 53 from Culver’s.
Great Lakes Protection Fund (GLPF) is a private, nonprofit corporation formed in 1989 by the Governors of the Great Lakes states. It is a permanent environmental endowment that supports collaborative actions to improve the health of the Great Lakes ecosystem. To date, the Fund has made 243 grants and program-related investments representing nearly $63 million to support the creative work of collaborative teams in member states that test new ideas, take risks, and share what they learn.