A three-month test phase of Europe’s first mobile, ballast water purification system has been underway in Hamburg since early November and allows the city to adhere to the International Maritime Organization’s new regulations on mitigating damage to the Port of Hamburg’s ecosystem. Ships that bring e.g. unfiltered organisms such as cholera bacteria, algae or crabs from foreign waters to their native waters can upset the sensitive ecological balance in the port.
Protecting the ecological balance
“Hamburg is the first European port to fund such a facility with a good EUR 300,000. This pilot project is worth it because the plant means we are creating an environment-friendly, after-treatment of ballast water without harmful chemicals that pollute the water,” said Jens Kerstan, Senator for the Environment. This will protect the ecological balance and prevent the spread of invasive species.
Sources of ballast water
Seafaring vessels pump seawater into special tanks to sail steadily when reduced amounts of cargo are aboard. However, microorganisms in the water can disrupt the ecological balance of foreign waters by driving away other species. Thus, ships are forced to change their ballast water at the latest 200 nautical miles off the coast – or purify it on board using their own treatment plants. Ships that lack such a facility have to prove that the water has been changed professionally.
The Hamburg-based Jongen waste disposal is now operating the plant and also collaborates with the city in the event of oil spills in the port. Its “Invasive 300” cleaning system is attached to a pontoon and can clean the water from ships and transfer treated water anywhere. The system removes germs and small sea animals from 300 cubic metres of water per hour. Ships using the service are issued with a certificate when the ballast water has been removed.