Maersk joint venture helps to protect marine ecosystems

Vessels travelling the world’s oceans use ballast tanks filled with seawater to ensure stability, trim and structural integrity.

Ships for the long (and short) haul

A range of container vessels, most of them on the large end of the scale, will begin arriving this year to replace older, less efficient ones and help Maersk Line grow in line with its largest competitors.

However, the water also contains micro-organisms that can wreak havoc on local maritime ecosystems when water originating in one environment is emptied into another.

Experts estimate that at least 7,000 different species are being carried in ballast tanks around the world, and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), calls invasive marine species one of the greatest threats to the world’s maritime ecosystems.

To address this threat, the IMO is ratifying a convention that will require existing ships to treat their ballast water from 2016, with smaller vessels required to do so from 2014. Today, many new vessels already come with ballast water treatment systems.

Using UV radiation to remove organisms

The IMO has approved more than 20 ballast water systems, and some of these are already installed on Maersk vessels. We are also a partner in Desmi Ocean Guard, a joint venture that has developed an energy-efficient system combining ozone gas with ultraviolet radiation in a three step process:

The first treatment is pressurized filtration, removing most of the organisms above 50 microns as well as the bulk of the sediment in the water. The second step is UV radiation with low pressure lamps, while the third and final treatment is utilization of the ozone generated by the low pressure lamps which is pumped into the ballast water by a simple ejector.

Expected to be approved by the IMO in late 2012, the new system will ultimately compete for USD 30-50 billion in business from more than 60,000 commercial vessels between 2013 and 2020.

In all, Maersk expects to invest more than USD 600 million to meet the new requirements.