Top lab stops BWMS testing, slams regulations

"The threat of introductions of new species may not be significantly reduced" by current rules, says MERC

The University of Maryland’s respected Maritime Environment Resource Center (MERC) is to stop testing ballast water management (BWM) systems for type approval, citing flaws in regulations.

The centre is a designated independent laboratory (IL) for US Coast Guard testing which has been active in the sector since 2008. In a statement announcing the move it blamed the lack of a standardised approach to testing and sufficient oversight, which is undermining national and international policies to control invasive species.

“The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s (UMCES) scientific integrity and reputation for providing advice for science-based decision making is of the utmost importance,” said UMCES Chesapeake Biological Laboratory director Dr Thomas Miller. “Therefore, under the current regulations, which do not significantly reduce the threat of some invasive species, MERC can no longer conduct BWMS certification testing.”

Shortcomings in both the IMO G8 Guidelines and the USCG Independent Laboratory certification testing process have resulted in uncertainties about the quality and value of test results, the statement said. Both approaches allow test facilities to ignore live larvae of zebra mussels and other molluscs, eggs of various species and large algal cells because they often don’t or naturally cannot move on their own, and under current regulations can be presumed dead.

“Other basic scientific methods can clearly demonstrate that these same non-moving organisms are living and viable. Thus, the threat of introductions of new species from ballast water after treatment with a certified BWMS may not be significantly reduced,” noted MERC.

The centre will complete the testing for which it is contracted, but will suspend all future testing.

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