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An important environmental treaty has just been ratified by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to help tackle a major environmental threat to the world’s oceans, and ultraviolet water treatment offers ship owners a clean and reliable way of meeting the new requirements.

As freight is moved around the world by sea, the ships that carry it have to repeatedly take on and release ballast water so that they remain stable. The huge distances between these operations mean that aquatic species are routinely transported from one ecosystem into another, and often the new host environment may become overwhelmed if there are no natural predators for the introduced organisms, or if they are able to out-compete the local species for food. This can have a devastating effect on local wildlife, local economies and people’s livelihoods, as shown in this BBC film.

The Ballast Water Management Convention now requires all ships engaged in international trade to manage their ballast water to certain standards, which usually involves installing a shipboard system to treat the water as it is discharged. The treatment must prevent the aquatic species from reproducing and becoming established in their new home. This treaty, first adopted by the IMO in 2004, will finally come into effect in September 2017 after being recently ratified by Finland. States will then have a further five years in which to implement it for their fleets.

One of the approved methods by which ballast water can be treated before discharge is to expose it to ultraviolet light, and Eco-UV partner Hanovia has been working with Finnish shipboard system integrator Wärtsilä to develop a UV system that can cope with the large quantities of water that need to be treated. UV treatment has the advantage of being rapid, able to cope with the varied conditions of ballast waters, and doesn’t require additional chemicals to be carried or released. Hanovia’s system was approved by the IMO in December 2012 and so is well-placed to now take advantage of the expected increase in demand for such systems triggered by the ratification of the treaty. This exciting new application for the power of UV will help nations to address a serious threat to our environment while preserving the benefits of international trade.

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