Ballast Water Monitoring
Detection and response to marine invasive species
The utilisation of ballast water for ship stabilisation unintentionally paves the way for the dispersal of invasive aquatic species globally. With roughly 80% of global goods transportation done via ships, and the annual release of ballast water reaching 10 billion tons, the inadvertent introduction of invasive species to new locations has escalated. A glaring example of the repercussions includes the near extinction of the native European flat oyster from the Wadden Sea due to the rapid spread of the invasive Pacific oyster. This, along with other harmful aquatic organisms and pathogens (HAOP), can impose billions in economic losses, especially in fisheries. The Suez Canal expansion has even led to an uptick in invasive species in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.
Addressing this issue, several measures have been taken. However, the promising eDNA Earth Observation (EO) technology that can monitor the spread of HAOP remains in its developmental phase. Until its completion, the focus is on digital twinning to map HAOP risk, merging knowledge about marine species spread, port risk management, and spatial data technology. Despite these advancements, there are still significant delays in updating current BWM practices.
To bridge these gaps, SPA/RAC, RAMANI, and Fundación Valencia port, in collaboration with ports in Tunisia and Morocco, are introducing a DTO for HAOP in Spain's coastal area. This project, called “Next Port of Call Risk Assessment (NPOCRA)”, will be integrated into the RAMANI platform. This service will use high-resolution forecasting, Sentinel data, in-situ observations, and citizen science contributions to offer advisories regarding ballast discharges. The DTO will provide real-time risk assessments of invasive species, improve invasive species spread forecasting, and allow the simulation of various scenarios assessing HAOP pollution. The NPOCRA service, as an intelligence tool, aims to guide cargo shipping companies in the Ballast Water Convention's implementation, possibly extending its features to monitor other maritime waste forms. Such risk assessment not only minimises environmental impacts but also promotes maritime cargo transport as a sustainable mode, simultaneously reducing associated costs from potential non-compliance.