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Collaboration aims to improve green shipping

The University of Wisconsin-Superior Lake Superior Research Institute announced the launch of its Great Waters Research Collaborative, a major project devoted to assessing effectiveness of tools for sustainable industrial, commercial and public use of the nation's Great Waters, especially green shipping.

The project's immediate focus is assessing the effectiveness of ballast water management systems at preventing introductions of aquatic invasive species by commercial cargo ships. Specifically, the collaborative conducts type approval tests of candidate ballast water management systems for U.S. Coast Guard and International Maritime Organization certification review.

The project is also developing and testing methods for determining changes in invasive species introduction risk in the Great Lakes.

The Great Waters Research Collaborative comprises experienced researchers with diverse expertise from the Lake Superior Research Institute, the University of Minnesota Duluth's Natural Resources Research Institute, and AMI Consulting Engineers to deliver a comprehensive research capacity for maritime-related environmental research services. The team bring more than 15 years of experience working together on ballast water research within the Great Ships Initiative, created by the Northeast-Midwest Institute.

"The LSRI is pleased to be part of GWRC, a truly collaborative project, which conducts research that can be applied to solve problems and improve health, quality of life, the environment for all citizens within the Great Lakes region and beyond," said Dr. Matt TenEyck, director of the Lake Superior Research Institute. "This applied research approach directed at green shipping is consistent with LSRI's mission, and a great fit."

The collaborative will provide non-traditional learning and applied research opportunities for undergraduate students, said UW-Superior Chancellor Renée Wachter.

The GWRC team, including Allegra Cangelosi as primary investigator, is building on its experiences now under the auspices of the research institute.

"We are excited to continue our objective performance evaluations of technologies and policies designed to protect Great Waters such as the Great Lakes," Cangelosi said. "We focus our evaluations not only on prospective BWMS, but also the type approval protocols used for approving BWMS, and the ballast water discharge standards, themselves, to help improve understanding of their capacity to protect the Great Lakes and other Great Waters. Our findings are critical to the continuous improvement of those policies and technologies, and to helps the regional, national and international stakeholders of healthy Great Waters resources to have confidence in green shipping innovations, like BWMS, as an environmental protection tool."

Current collaborative projects include U.S. Coast Guard shipboard certification testing of promising ballast water management systems. It is constructing a Great Lakes-relevant global database of ballast-water uptake characteristics to improve understanding of the challenge conditions in which such systems must operate; assessing movements of organisms by laker ships through a Great Lakes Ship Discharge Monitoring Project; and bench-testing of prototype BWMS, all with funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, via the Maritime Administration.

"The Great Lakes have been under assault by aquatic invasive species for decades," said Molly Flanagan of the Alliance for the Great Lakes. "We need effective ballast treatment systems and other prevention measures that are 'tried and proven' to work for the Great Lakes. The GWRC is our go-to source for this critical information."

Steve Fisher of the American Great Lakes Ports Association emphasized the ports' stake in the quality of information around preventing ship-mediated AIS.

"Recall ports are fixed places of industry within the Great Lakes region; they are fully invested in effective prevention measures to protect the Great Lakes," Fisher said.

"Fednav, a world leader in efforts to develop effective onboard ballast water treatment systems, welcomes its continuing collaboration with fellow Great Lakes stakeholders in addressing issues associated with the introduction and spread of AIS through the discharge of vessels' ballast water," said George Robichon, of FedNav Ltd, which owns most saltwater ships that trade to the lakes.

"While lakers did not bring AIS to the Great Lakes region, we are working with GWRC to better understand their movement throughout the system where we trade," said Tom Rayburn of the Lake Carriers' Association. "We believe this will give all the vessel operators on the lakes the tools to refine prevention opportunities and further develop other practical and effective preparedness actions."