Type Approval (TA) Testing of Ballast Water Treatment Systems (BWTS)

Like a new type of car before it is introduced in the market, Ballast Water Treatment Systems (BWTS) have to be granted a Type Approval (TA) before being installed on-board of a ship. The global (IMO) and US regulations (ETV) contain the regulations and conditions for such granting.


Testing for world-wide compliance of a BWTS on-board of ships can be regarded as the ultimate challenge:

  • challenging on a regulatory level, because regulations differ across the globe;
  • in a biological way, because ecological circumstances in many different marine and coastal areas must be simulated to ensure a challenging test for the treatment system;
  • technologically, because the chosen method by the manufacturer must perform in accordance with the regulations.


Type Approval testing: Land-Based and Ship-Board 

All BWTS have to conduct land-based and ship-board tests for Type Approval. TA testing is subject to global (IMO) and regional (US Coast Guard and EPA) regulations. Relevant IMO Procedures that apply for all BWTS are the BWMC (Code for approval of ballast water management systems Res. MEPC.300(72)) and for the US regulations the ETV protocol (Generic Protocol For The Verification Of Ballast Water Treatment Technology, EPA 2010). Both regulatory regimes contain two ‘tiers’ of test series:

  • Land-Based’ testing, To prove biological efficacy and other parameters, multiple test runs on three different types of water salinity: fresh, brackish and marine are required. MEA-nl performs these tests by taking in ambient water from Lake IJssel (fresh), the Wadden Sea (brackish) and the North Sea (marine). Our test facility the barge MEA-innovator is fully dedicated to fulfil this task;
  • Ship-Board’ testing, To prove adequate performance ‘in real life’. The BWTS must be installed on an operating merchant vessel.

Active Substances

A significant part of the BWTS that are available world-wide make use of or produce Active Substances (AS). The most commonly used AS in BWTS are chlorine and ozone. As ballast water can still be toxic at discharge, this may cause harm to the environment. Consequently, such BWTS must be subject to toxicity testing. Under the IMO regulations, the following guidelines apply:

  • Procedure for approval of ballast water management systems that make use of Active Substances (G9), resolution MEPC.169(57);
  • ‘The revised methodology for information gathering and conduct of the work of the GESAMP Ballast Water Working Group (GESAMP-BWWG, BWM.2/Circ.13)’. This expert group reviews the applications and advices the Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC) on approval. The Methodology describes how toxicity tests must be conducted for Basic and Final Approval.

Concerning US regulations, the following applies:

  • Generic protocol for the verification of ballast water treatment technology: ETV Protocol (EPA 2010);
  • Appendix J to the VGP 2008: Procedure for Whole Effluent Toxicity Testing of Ballast Water.


 Whole Effluent Toxicity and Disinfection by-products

Both BWMC (IMO) and ETV and VGP 2008 (US) regulations decide that two types of tests are obligatory:

  • Whole Effluent Toxicity (WET) tests, at which a toxicological test must be performed on different taxa on varying salinities;
  • Disinfection by-products (DBP) testing, at which chemicals or reaction products are analysed after addition of chemical components.


MEA-nl’s services for BWTS Type Approval

MEA-nl and its widespread network of expertise is able to supply all relevant services related to BWTS, including BWTS with AS, including WET and DBP tests. Our full service package includes:

1) TA projects with combined IMO and US ETV, in which we successfully conduct the tests in accordance of both different regulatory regimes in parallel. This approach can be very time efficient and cost-effective;

2) TA projects for either IMO or US ETV; in which we can conduct a part of the required TA tests to complete tests for your BWTS that were executed previously or at another test facility. This could, for example, include solely a WET/DBP test or solely Land-Based or Ship-Board testing;

3) Pre Tests (bench-scale tests), This is a small scale test prior to a more comprehensive TA project. in fact, this is a R&D test, where we aim to assure that your BWTS will have the highest chance of success, which significantly increases the chance for an effective subsequent TA. A bench-scale test can also be used for Basic Approval of a BWTS.  


Explanatory note at 1 and 2.
For TA-projects according to US Coast Guard ETV  (option 2- US ETV), co-operation with an  Independent Laboratory (IL) is obligatory.  The IL finally submits the TA testproject at the US Coast Guard for approval. MEA-nl acts as sub-laboratory in this process. For recent and forthcoming projects, Lloyd’s Register EMEA has acted IL for US Coast Guard Type Approval.
For TA projecten according to IMO regulations (option 2- IMO), co-operation with an IL is not obligatory.  For the last 15 years, we have co-operated with a large variety of national maritime administrations such as Germany, United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Greece.
In the case of a combined test project (1), co-operation with an IL is requested according to the US regulations.

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Projects: TA Testing of Ballast Water Treatment Systems

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