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FAQ: Ballast Water

1000 foot ship Mesabi Miner
Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy

FAQ: Ballast Water

  • The State of Michigan wants to take action to protect the Great Lakes from aquatic invasive species.

  • If actions are not taken to stop the spread of aquatic invasive species, additional species will be transported into the Great Lakes (and from the Great Lakes to other parts of the world) through ballast water. Additional major impacts such as elimination of native species may be seen on the Great Lakes ecosystem.

  • You will have to contact the owner/operator directly.

  • In this case the penalties do not apply. For the penalties to apply the contract has to be directly with the owner/operator.

  • Businesses or municipalities that have goods carried by ships not on the Ballast Water Reporting List are not eligible for a new grant, loan or award from EGLE.

  • Ballast water is carried in tanks on ships for stability when lightly loaded. Ballast water is pumped into the tanks when an empty ship starts a journey and pumped out when it takes on cargo at its destination.

  • Ships can take on ballast water in areas with water pollution or in areas where fish and plants are numerous. The water is not filtered or treated. When a ship discharges the ballast water, any pollutants, fish, or plants that survived the trip are released into the new location. If the new location is favorable, the organisms, including bacteria, fish, plants, or viruses can grow very large populations because their natural predators and diseases are absent. These aquatic invasive species cause major changes in ecosystems and cost Michigan residents millions of dollars per year to control.

  • Zebra mussels (well-known threat to infrastructure by clogging intake pipes and beaches), Round goby (fish that competes with desirable native species), Spiny water flea (inedible zooplankton that disrupts the bottom of the food web), Ruffe (fish that competes with desirable native species) and others.

  • The following efforts are currently underway:

    • The National Invasive Species Act requires ships entering the Great Lakes from the St. Lawrence Seaway to have exchanged their ballast water with salt water in the ocean. This reduces the number and survivability of organisms in the tanks. Some ships come in fully loaded with no ballast on board, so they do not have to do the ballast exchange. However, some unpumpable material still remains in the tanks that can contain organisms.
    • The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation and the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation have incorporated ballast water management practices into the Practices and Procedures for the St. Lawrence Seaway.
  • More information can be found at Additional information and pictures can be found at Great Lakes Commission - Aquatic Invasive Species.