Maritime Environmental and Technical Assistance (META) Program

Aquatic Invasive Species

Aquatic Invasive Species

The U.S. Department of Transportation, Maritime Administration (MARAD), has taken an increasingly prominent role in addressing issues related to the introduction of non-indigenous aquatic species through ballast water and hull biofouling. Ballast water is vital to the safe operation of vessels in the Nation’s marine transportation system. MARAD supports a strong national and international solution that does not disrupt the transportation system or result in market shifts.

It is the mission of MARAD to support the marine transportation system and the maritime industry. The introduction of aquatic invasive species via ballast water has been an issue for decades. The Agency established the Ballast Water Initiative in order to assist the industry and government agencies to move treatment technologies from the laboratory to ship-board application as rapidly as possible.

Ballast Water Treatment

Collaborative Efforts
The Maritime Administration’s (MARAD) ballast water efforts began in the early 2000s: To date, it has grown into a multi-state and multi-agency cooperative effort that includes the development of technical and scientific protocols for technology testing and verification, development of independent testing facilities to provide the needed data for ultimate certification of technologies to International Maritime Organization (IMO) and Coast Guard standards, and technology testing.

Prior to 2010, MARAD contributed ship platforms for testing, scientific, technical, engineering, and marine architectural support and year-end funding to the ballast water effort. Also, MARAD has worked to coordinate the development of a network of facilities for testing and verification of technologies. In addition, MARAD also received funds from NOAA in 2005 and 2006 to support ballast water-related activities.

With funding provided through FY 2012, MARAD has supported the creation and operation of three independent ballast water treatment testing facilities. At this time, each of the facilities is able to test technologies in accordance with IMO testing protocols and a number of treatment systems have been tested. In July 2012, the Chesapeake Bay and Great Lakes facilities were accepted as sub-laboratories to NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) International, the first Independent Laboratory accepted by the U.S. Coast Guard for the evaluation, inspection, and testing of ballast water management systems.

For more information, click here.

Ballast Water Treatment

Ballast Water Technology Testing - Chesapeake Bay Region
Ballast Water Technology Testing – Chesapeake Bay Region
As background, in 2008, MARAD joined with the Maryland Department of Transportation and the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science to establish the Maritime Environmental Resource Center (MERC). Its initial focus was to evaluate the mechanical and biological efficacy, costs, and logistical aspects of ballast water treatment systems and to assess the economic impacts of ballast water regulations and management approaches.

MERC was initially rolled out during a shipboard ceremony in Baltimore Harbor in July 2008. Test facilities aboard two of the Maritime Administration’s Ready Reserve Force ships—the Cape Washington and the Cape Wrath—were completed, and  IMO compliance tests of several promising technologies have been conducted aboard the Cape Washington. Based upon the work done with the Cape Washington and lessons learned over the initial years of testing, MARAD, the Port of Baltimore, and MERC concluded that the addition of a mobile barge-based platform would complement our efforts and provide additional flexibility to test in various salinities and biota throughout the Chesapeake Bay.

In 2011, MERC dedicated a new mobile barge test platform that adds the ability to operate throughout the Chesapeake Bay and in near-shore coastal areas and provides an opportunity to test technologies in a wide range of environmental conditions with differing biological communities and varying salinities.

To find out more, click here.

Ballast Water Technology Testing In the Great Lakes
Ballast Water Technology Testing In the Great Lakes
The Great Ships Initiative (GSI) is a collaborative effort to end the problem of ship mediated introductions of invasive species in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway system through independent research and demonstration of environmental technology, financial incentives, and consistent basin-wide harbor monitoring. With the help of the Maritime Administration, the GSI has established a land-based Research, Development and Technology Evaluation (RDTE) facility in Superior, Wisconsin, to provide intensive testing services to vendors of ballast treatment of prospects.

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Superior’s Lake Superior Research Institute and the University of Duluth – Minnesota’s Natural Resources Research Institute, among others, provide critical scientific and technical expertise and services for biological research activities and other activities at GSI.

In 2012 and 2013, GSI is conducting four underway tests aboard the M/V Indiana Harbor as it transits between ports in southern Lake Michigan and the Port of Duluth-Superior.[1]

To find out more about the Great Ships Initiative, click here.

Ballast Water Technology Testing on the Training Ship Golden Bear
Ballast Water Technology Testing on the Training Ship Golden Bear
The Maritime Administration teamed with the California Maritime Academy, University of Washington, and The Glosten Associates and submitted a proposal to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for funds to convert the California Maritime Academy training ship Golden Bear into a test platform similar to the Chesapeake setup. The ship was successfully modified in 2010 and assists with ballast water treatment technology research and verification by conducting tests of systems during the regular school year and summer sea-term. This West Coast-based research platform facilitates ballast water technology research in a region highly populated with aquatic invasive species.

To find out more about the work aboard the Golden Bear, click here.

Golden Bear Ship

Hull Fouling

Hull Fouling

Hull biofouling is another potentially significant ship vector for the introduction of aquatic invasive species. The urgency of this issue can be evidenced by the rapid development of the Guidelines for the control and management of ships’ biofouling to minimize the transfer of invasive aquatic species, which was approved by the IMO MEPC 62 (July 2011). The approval of these guidelines will impact the shipping community, especially when entering the waters of Member States who place a high emphasis on “bio-security” (such as New Zealand and Australia). Hull husbandry was briefly discussed in EPA’s proposed 2013 Vessel General Permit.  Although no specific requirements were provided, the EPA stated that Vessel owner/operators must minimize the transport of attached living organisms when they travel into waters subject to this permit from outside the U.S. economic zone or when traveling between COTP (Captain of the Port) zones. After the State of California proposed hull husbandry practices to be performed by vessels entering state waters, MARAD began to expand its efforts related to aquatic invasive species to address this issue.

To learn more about the Guidelines, hull fouling and husbandry efforts, please see a presentation developed by the Office of Environment, click here.

Dry docking of the MV Cape Washington
The Maritime Administration vessel MV Cape Washington was drydocked at Bayonne Dry Dock and & Repair Corporation during the month of September 2012. Representatives from the Maritime Administration and Smithsonian Environmental Research Center viewed the vessel immediately after the docking in order to observe the extent of fouling on the hull and in the niche areas.

Dry docking of the MV Cape Washington
Vessel Particulars:
Length: 697 feet
Beam: 105 feet, 11 inches
Draft: 38 feet
Displacement:53,652 long tons

Videos of Interest:
The vessel’s bow resting on the dry docking blocks with bow thruster
The stern area of the vessel
High pressure water washing of the stern area
Up close look at the stern thruster
The bow thruster
The bilge keel and dry dock strips
Sea chest grates open
An open sea chest

Surveys of MARAD’s Non-Retention Vessels
Between January 2007 and May 2011, the Agency surveyed the hulls of several non-retention vessels prior to recycling. In many cases, surveys were performed before cleaning, after cleaning, and after transit to the recycling facility.  This was done to increase the body of knowledge on the local species, the effectiveness of hull cleaning, and biofouling activity (on slow moving vessels). The vessels surveyed were as follows:
Pioneer Contractor, Mt. Vernon, Cape Florida
Pride, Scan, Cape Charles
Queens Victory, Jason
Rider Victory
Dutton, Del valle, Pioneer Crusader, Hattiesburg Victory
Earlham Victory
Point Loma, Florence (post-transit)
Occidental Victory

Port and Vessel Air Emissions

Like invasive species, air pollution has substantial economic, environmental, and human health costs annually. A large percentage of emissions stems from mobile transportation sources. Air pollution from large marine diesel engines affect not just coastal and port communities, but they also impact populations hundreds of miles inland. Globally, marine diesel engines (i.e., large ocean going vessels) contribute approximately 14% nitrogen oxides, 6.5% of sulfur oxides, and 2.9% greenhouse gases of total estimated emissions. In the U.S., marine engines contribute 25% of nitrogen oxides, 80% of sulfur oxide emissions, and 17% of particulate matter emissions. As a result, there is an effort to reduce air pollution from ships.

As with other modes of transportation, there are many potential methods for achieving reductions, such as cleaner burning fuels and emissions abatement equipment or technology aboard, in addition to efficient design and operation of ships. In order for clean emissions initiatives to advance, there must be a process for assisting our stakeholders in making decisions on the most beneficial approaches. Whether selecting alternative fuels or technology, the investment by industry will be significant. Therefore, a very important component of MARAD’s efforts is to demonstrate the viability and applicability of alternatives in order to generate data and information useful to the marine community as well as regulatory agencies. Feasibility studies are also an important part of our work to determine whether equipment substitutions are cost effective and achieve the anticipated outcomes. Modeling of emissions scenarios is also important.

In addition to emissions reduction, there is a subset of issues specific to the use of alternative fuel. The field of alternative fuels is quickly advancing from the first generation to second generation advanced biofuels. The blended advanced biodiesels that have been tested on board ships did not have any detrimental effect on either the diesel engines or fuel storage and supply systems. However, the availability of these fuels and associated port infrastructure must be evaluated, as well as the actual performance and post-performance impacts to the vessels and emissions.

liquefied natural gas (LNG)


Natural gas is a promising alternative fuel that, when used as a marine fuel, can lead to significant criteria pollutant reductions. MARAD has partnered with the Great Lakes Maritime Research Institute to study the feasibility of using natural on the Great Lakes. The study investigates the shore side and vessel infrastructure requirements, transportation and safety issues, conceptual vessel engineering needs.

MARAD has partnered with the University of Delaware and the Rochester Institute of Technology on a total fuel cycle analysis of natural gas. The study quantifies emissions for various natural gas pathways as compared to conventional fuels. To view report, Natural Gas for Waterborne Freight Transport: A Life Cycle Emissions Assessment with Case Studies, click here.

As part of the Agency’s continuing effort to promote adoption of alternative energy in the maritime sector, a study has been conducted on LNG bunkering. Prepared by the U.S. subsidiary of the international classification society Det Norske Veritas (DNV), the study explains the four most common means of providing LNG to vessels and reviews, and the pros and cons of each approach. The study provides in-depth analysis of the safety risks inherent in each method, and discusses the training requirements for vessel crew, bunkering facility personnel and first responders. The study also identifies regulatory gaps and recommends approaches to achieve regulatory consistency. To view Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Bunkering Study, click here.

The Office has now completed a report that quantifies methane slip and fugitive emissions from using liquefied natural gas (LNG) for vessel operations and bunkering.  The study, completed in partnership with the University of Delaware and the Rochester Institute of Technology, builds upon earlier work identifying life cycle emissions associated with LNG use using a “well-to-hull” analysis.  The study was designed to provide information to assist in guiding innovation investment in reducing methane slip and release in the maritime propulsion context.  A key finding is that fugitive methane emissions from bunkering operations pose a potentially greater source of methane release than methane slip at the engine. For the final report:


The Maritime Administration’s (MARAD) initiative on marine application of alternative fuels began in 2010 and since then has grown into a multi-agency cooperative effort for testing of renewable biodiesels on board the school ship, the State of Michigan in the Great Lakes.

The objective of the initiative was to test alternative renewable fuels as the end user of the fuel. The goals of the initiative were to coordinate and supplement tests conducted by other agencies, develop baseline data, analyze and compare the data, and publish a test report.

The test project included procurement of neat renewable biodiesels, field blending of the fuels with ultra-low sulfur diesel (USLD), testing the blended fuels as test fuel and USLD as baseline fuel on board the vessel both underway and pier-side, and collecting, analyzing and comparing the data and publishing the final test report. The onboard tests included performance and endurance tests, exhaust emission and vibration monitoring, as well as under-water sound transmission tests. These tests were conducted according to the recognized standards, protocols and guidelines developed by the American Society for Testing and Materials and the International Organization for Standardization. Pre- and post-test engine and power plant were tested and evaluated by the manufacturer’s representative.

The tests were coordinated with several federal and non-federal agencies, such as the Navy (Naval Air Systems and Naval Sea Systems Command), the Environmental Protection Agency, the United States Army Corps of Engineers, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Federal Maritime Commission, The United States Coast Guard, the America Bureau of Shipping, the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, etc.

With funding provided in FY 2011 and FY 2012, MARAD has conducted various tests of two different types of renewable biodiesel on board the State of Michigan.

Alternative Biodiesel Testing – FY 2011
In FY 2011, MARAD joined with the Navy to conduct performance and endurance testing of hydro-treated renewable diesel (HRD) produced from Algal feed stock. The fuel was provided by the Navy to supplement the tests on-board a marine platform, and included performance and endurance tests both underway and pier side, pre- and post-test power plant evaluation, and fuel and lube oil analysis. MARAD also conducted exhaust emission and long-term fuel stability tests.

For more information click on: Environment, Security & Safety

Alternative Biodiesel Testing – FY 2012
In FY 2012, MARAD conducted performance and endurance testing of hydrogenated renewable diesel (HRD), the crude feed stock is produced from fermentation of sugar in Sorghum/sugar cane and then refined. Like the tests conducted in FY 2011, these tests included performance and endurance tests, exhaust emission monitoring, pre- and post-test power plant evaluation, fuel and lube oil analysis.

In 2012, MARAD added onboard machinery vibration and underwater sound transmission tests to collect and analyze of the data. The tests have just been concluded and the report can be found at: Renewable Diesel Fuel for Marine Application – Final Report

Engine Repowers

MARAD’s META program also provided funding to the Southeast Missouri Regional Planning Commissions for replacement of two older propulsion engines on the MV Daniel Wise with new Tier 3-certified main propulsion engines. Real-world emissions testing were conducted at intervals for up to 17,000 hours of operation after the engine upgrade. The emissions tests results showed significant criteria pollutant emissions reductions (PM, NOx, SOx), as well as a reduction in overall fuel consumption. The report can be downloaded at Emission Benefits from Repowering the MV Daniel W. Wise

Shore Power
In port areas, land-based air emissions are only one part of the air quality equation. Historically, ships in port, whether at anchor or at the pier continue to operate one or more auxiliary or main engines to provide power for hoteling, equipment operation, loading or unloading, or safety. Like idling trucks, the vessels continue to add to local air quality problems. Many ports, particularly those on the west and gulf coasts have implemented or are implementing procedures to reduce idling and provide shore power (cold ironing) for ships while in port. These measures are not without controversy and successful implementation can pose significant challenges to both the port (and local and national power supply) and the vessel.

In 2013, MARAD was approached by the Department of Energy (DOE) to explore potential uses of fuel cells in the maritime market. Although discussions are preliminary, two potential opportunities warrant further exploration – vessel auxiliary power (main propulsion appears futher away) and shore power.

More information will be provided as this opportunity develops.
[1]EPA, Control of Emissions from New Marine Compression-Ignition Engines at or above 30 liters per cylinder.