Sediments in the ship's ballast water tank: a problem to be solved.
Purpose: The International Maritime Organization's (IMO) International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments (BWM Convention) was entered into force in September 2017. It deals with one of the greatest threats to coastal and marine environments around the world: aquatic invasive alien species (IAS) and harmful aquatic organisms and pathogens (HAOP). Although the control of IAS and HAOP through treatment of ballast water (BW) is appropriately dealt with in the Convention and its implementation, the problems generated by sediments are not treated in such a manner. Materials and methods: There are many published technical and scientific papers, discussions and commentaries proposing the remediation of the present situation. They are discussed, and recommendations are summarized. Besides, several systems for the treatment of BW use a combination of two or three techniques, with filtration usually being the first and/or the last step. Presence of sediments in BW results in the reduced applicability of such an approach. Results and discussion: The requirements for sediment management procedures are discussed along with a proposal for their implementation. In the first step, the ballast tank sediments should be freed of active biological agents for the elimination of IAS and HAOP. Instead of biological agents, we advocate the use of radiation treatment by using an electron accelerator, preferably in an on-shore installation or as a mobile, additive, sea container size units with integral power, separated for water and sediment treatment. In the second step, the concentrations of heavy metals should be determined. We recommend the use of EDXRF as an analytical method. After the determination of sediment class, the recommended disposal procedures should be followed. Conclusions: Sediment management procedures should specify the disposal requirements: (i) free of active biological agents, IAS and HAOP; (ii) chemical composition, no chemical elements in a toxic range (≤ Class 3); and (iii) displacement/storage requirements, displacing sediments characterized as harmful in appropriate sediment reception facilities/landfills.