A shipboard comparison of analytic methods for ballast water compliance monitoring
Promising approaches for indicative analysis of ballast water samples have been developed that require study in the field to examine their utility for determining compliance with the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments. To address this gap, a voyage was undertaken on board the RV Meteor, sailing the North Atlantic Ocean from Mindelo (Cape Verde) to Hamburg (Germany) during June 4–15, 2015. Trials were conducted on local sea water taken up by the ship's ballast system at multiple locations along the trip, including open ocean, North Sea, and coastal water, to evaluate a number of analytic methods that measure the numeric concentration or biomass of viable organisms according to two size categories (≥ 50 μm in minimum dimension: 7 techniques, ≥ 10 μm and < 50 μm: 9 techniques). Water samples were analyzed in parallel to determine whether results were similar between methods and whether rapid, indicative methods offer comparable results to standard, time- and labor-intensive detailed methods (e.g. microscopy) and high-end scientific approaches (e.g. flow cytometry). Several promising indicative methods were identified that showed high correlation with microscopy, but allow much quicker processing and require less expert knowledge. This study is the first to concurrently use a large number of analytic tools to examine a variety of ballast water samples on board an operational ship in the field. Results are useful to identify the merits of each method and can serve as a basis for further improvement and development of tools and methodologies for ballast water compliance monitoring.