About the Ram Lab Automated Ballast Treatment Verification Project

The goal of the Ram Lab Automated Ballast Treatment Verfication Project is to reduce the likelihood of new invasive species entering the Great Lakes. The team will accomplish this by developing an automated, shipboard, rapid-testing system that will be able to report in real time the presence of any live organisms in ballast water following treatment. If successful, this project will eliminate one of the greatest challenges facing invasive species control - the ability to capture and test sufficient volumes of water to properly assess the efficacy of ballast treatment methods and compliance with ballast standards.  Support for this work is provided by the Great Lakes Protection Fund.

In the first year, the team will create a series of increasingly sophisticated prototype systems and rigorously test them in the laboratory using Environmental Technology Verification (ETV) protocols established by the Environmental Protection Agency for ballast technologies. From these results, the team will then build several prototype versions of the system for performance testing at the Great Ships Initiative's land-based facility in Superior, Wisconsin. In the project's final year, the team will focus on shipboard testing, installing and testing fully automated devices in at least two working vessels, the Ranger III, a ballasted vessel operated by the U.S. National Park Service (Isle Royale National Park), and a vessel arranged by Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Ultimately, the team's goal is to have the system certified as an ETV-approved monitoring technology.

The project team will work closely with leaders in the ballast monitoring field including university experts, state and federal agency staff, ship owners, and equipment manufacturers, and will convene at least annually a regional ballast verification management workshop. The team will also maintain an informal network of stakeholders and interested parties and will promote the work at regional, national and international meetings.

Ballast water of ships has caused havoc in the world's aquatic ecosystems by discharging numerous invasive species and pathogens where they don't belong. New international (IMO), Canadian, US Coast Guard, and state regulations to prevent the transport of nuisance aquatic species into the Great Lakes will soon require both ballast water treatment and exchange outside the Great Lakes to kill or virtually* eliminate all live organisms in the ballast water they discharge. It is a difficult problem: How can you design a system that is so lethal as to be able to kill practically everything being discharged and yet be so benign that the discharged water is perfectly non-toxic to the environment in which it is released? And how can you verify and enforce that the treatment systems being developed really are as effective as designed and that they continue to be so after installation. This web site is devoted to being an information nexus for news about ballast water technology, including ballast water treatment technologies, verification of ballast water treatments, and about the regulations that will enforce them. We'll keep you informed about new technology developments, including our own, and about shipping activities, conferences, and other important communications relevant to preventing new invasive species from entering the Great Lakes.