The project “BAllast water test Quality Assurance” (BAQUA) is carried out at the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (Bremerhaven) in cooperation with the German Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency (BSH) in Hamburg. The aim of the project is to develop a test facility for quantitative and qualitative validation of ballast water extraction methods on ships.

The ballast water absorbed to stabilize a larger vessel is in most cases transferred over long distances across the oceans. In order to prevent the organisms from being carried away within that water body, there are various systems for ballast water treatment. To scrutinize this water conditioning samples are taken regularly onboard of the vessels, which will be controlled for  alive organisms thereafter. This sampling is of particular importance, as it is fundamental for a meaningful analysis and representative results. However, whether the treated organisms have actually been disposed by the treatment plant or have rather been damaged in the manner of sampling is still unclear.

According to the "G8" guideline on the Ballast Water Convention adopted by the IMO (International Maritime Organisation), the testing institutes are to be given the opportunity to qualify their method of sampling on an independent testing facility. So far, there is no system that enables such a qualification of ballast water extraction.

The aim of the AWI project is therefore to build a prototype of a test facility that complies with the G8 guidelines. First of all, a small-scale prototype is used to test how best possible system design can be achieved. Special attention must be paid to the sensitive organisms in the water inside the prototype. These organisms represent the naturally occurring plankton species in ballast water.

If the organisms were damaged by shear forces and mechanical stress in the prototype, the direct influence of the sampling on the organisms would no longer be comprehensible.

Further improvements and up-scaling of the test device will follow at the end of the project.

Finally, BSH is planning to build a collaborative test facility for the future, which will enable the implementation of collaborative tests for representative sampling.

Project Factsheet

Project name

BAllast water test QUality Assurance (BAQUA)

Project duration

8 months



Project partners



ministries, environmental protection organizations, NGOs, shipping companies, ship owners


Prof. Dr. Bela H. Buck

Jan Köbel