Crédits photo : Photoexpress, Photographe : JoLin
Often ignored by the general public, the term "ballast" designates any solid or liquid transported aboard a ship to increase its draught, or change its trim. Before the 20th century, ships used solid material (rocks, sand) to ensure their stability at sea. With the introduction of steel-hulled ships and pumping technology, water became the favoured ballast material.
But with the intensification of maritime traffic, the importance of this ballast water is not simply a means of balancing ships. Today, it also represents a major international ecological challenge. In fact, pumped out by tourist or commercial vessels, this water can contain thousands of aquatic species (bacteria, micro-organisms, algae and animal species). It is estimated that ships transfer between 3 and 5 billion tonnes of ballast water every year, transporting up to 7,000 different species every day. When they are pumped out into the natural environment along with the ballast water, these species can have harmful effects on the local ecosystem, and more broadly for the environment, particularly if they are not naturally present in it.
In order to meet this new environmental challenge, the treatment of ballast water is today being regulated through an agreement drafted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), whose 170 member states must commit to minimise the transfer of harmful aquatic organisms and pathogens, by equipping their fleets with ballast water treatment systems. By 2016, around 15,000 ships must meet these new regulation standards.
In this field, research is underway. SUEZ ENVIRONNEMENT and its innovation investment fund Blue Orange are entering a partnership with REDOX MARITIME TECHNOLOGIES, a Norwegian company specialising in water disinfection by ozonation so as to develop a new ozone treatment technology for ballast water. In support of the development work undertaken by REDOX MARITIME TECHNOLOGIES, SUEZ ENVIRONNEMENT will provide access to the expertise developed by OZONIA, a Degrémont subsidiary, in the ozone and ultraviolet (UV) treatment of industrial and urban residual water. With this agreement, SUEZ ENVIRONNEMENT confirms its ability to innovate and be an early adopter on ecological sectors with high development potential.