|Great Ships Initiative|
Ship-mediated invasive species is one of the most pressing and consequential environmental problems facing the region. The Institute used its unique position within the region to forge collaboration among groups possessing critical parts of the solution to catalyze progress, and generate the regional capacity necessary to effectively implement it. The Great Ships Initiative (GSI) fuses interests, expertise, and resources from the federal government, states, industry, environmental groups, cities, and ports in the United States and Canada to generate critical information and financial incentives for solving the problem of ship-mediated invasive species.
Ballast water from commercial vessels is likely responsible for nearly 1/3 of the 150 aquatic invasive species in the Great Lakes. The National Invasive Species Act (1990, amended 1996) requires ships to treat ballast water by a date certain to stop live organism discharges. Resource advocates also petitioned for federal regulation of ballast water under the Clean Water Act, which delegates certain authority to states. Disagreements over appropriate federal and state limits, fueled by conflicting or non-existent information on availability and effectiveness of ballast water treatment (BWT) escalated to lawsuits and threatened the region’s maritime transportation network.
The Northeast-Midwest Institute responded in 2006 by organizing states, regional universities, ports, and the maritime industry into a shared Great Ships Initiative (GSI). GSI aims to usher in routine use of effective BWTs applicable to Great Lakes-relevant ships through high quality, low cost, and independent BWT performance testing to developers at the bench, land-based and shipboard scales. It also develops effective monitoring and enforcement methods. GSI’s Land-Based Test Facility in Superior, WI is the premier freshwater BWT test facility globally, and the only one certified to supply BWT test data to the U.S. Coast Guard for freshwater approval decisions.
An advisory committee of maritime and resource interests, mayors, governors, and federal agency officials assures GSI findings remain objective, timely, relevant to regional needs, and accessible to target audiences.
Recent Activities and Outputs (2011-12):
Briefings/Workshops: GSI presented at a Hill briefing on ballast water and the Great Lakes and hosted an international workshop on validating BWT effectiveness against harmful microbes.
Freshwater BWT Evaluations: GSI completed bench, land and ship tests in freshwater on six different proposed BWT processes.
BWT Monitoring Guide: GSI developed a cost-effective BWT monitoring method for Great Lakes ships, and produced a guidebook titled “A Ballast Discharge Monitoring System for Great Lakes Relevant Ships.”
BWT Evaluation Methods: GSI worked with federal agencies to evaluate their land- and shipboard BWT testing guidelines.
Certification: GSI became the first U.S. Coast Guard-approved "Independent Laboratory" for BWT evaluation, inspection, and testing in freshwater.
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