A ship’s untreated ballast water can have serious environmental consequences. When a ship is empty of cargo, it must fill with ballast water to maintain its stability, trim, and structural integrity. When the ship loads cargo in a distant port, it discharges its ballast water along with any aquatic life it contains. This aquatic life may out-compete native species and multiply into pest proportions. Problems directly resulting from invasive species include the collapse of entire commercial fisheries, the displacement of native seabed communities, and the red tide contamination absorbed by filter-feeding shellfish, among many others affecting the environment and human health. The Training Ship Golden Bear will help to combat these problems by serving as a shipboard ballast water treatment testing facility, with its operational goal set for late 2009. Owned by the US Maritime Administration (MARAD) and run by the California Maritime Academy (CMA), the facility will be used as a research, development, testing, and evaluation (RDTE) facility, providing impartial science to serve the needs of the maritime and environmental regulatory world. This program will:
- Provide access to an operational ship with purpose-built laboratories to researchers working on ballast water treatment solutions.
- Reduce the high costs associated with current shipboard testing.
- Increase the standardization and quality control of shipboard experiments.
- Educate merchant marine cadets and general student populations on ballast water issues.
Golden Bear will function as a “plug and play” platform for research teams, regardless of how they approach the treatment challenge. Researchers will be able to install their system in a standard 20-foot shipping container, using connection specifications provided by the facility to access ballast water tanks, electricity, and ancillaries. This will enable them to set up their platform at their home location, and then easily transport it to Vallejo for loading aboard the facility without having to install their treatment system below deck.