Thursday, July 09, 2009

Water from the Aral Sea

We were at Maplewood Flats, on the North Shore (more about this later), and I took a photo of this ship near the Chevron Oil Refinery on the far shore. I didn't see the water spraying out of the stern until I blew up the photo at home.

Is she unloading ballast water preparatory to loading fuel? (This article includes a photo of a similar ballast discharge pipe in operation.)

Whether it's that, or some other reason for spewing water (wastewater?) into the Burrard Inlet, it worries me.
Cruise ships, large tankers, and bulk cargo carriers use a tremendous amount of ballast water, which is often taken on in the coastal waters in one region after ships discharge wastewater or unload cargo, and discharged at the next port of call, wherever more cargo is loaded. Ballast water discharge typically contains a variety of biological materials, including plants, animals, viruses, and bacteria. These materials often include non-native, nuisance, exotic species that can cause extensive ecological and economic damage to aquatic ecosystems, ... (Wikipedia)
Some of those "biological materials" are listed in a NOAA page:
...minute jellyfish, larval mussels and barnacles, marine worms, tiny shrimp-like copepods and juvenile fish. These creatures share their confines with an assortment of single-celled plants and even smaller bacteria and viruses.
The Japanese mud snail, Batillaria attramentaria, that covers the mud flats in Boundary Bay, probably arrived here in ballast water.

An article in E-Fauna BC, Exotic Introductions into BC Marine Waters: Major Trends has a table of 31 introduced marine plants and animals, not including the Japanese mud snail. Puget Sound Partnership adds three species of Tunicates.

The ship is the Aral Sea, under a Singapore flag. More about her, here. Worrisome.



  1. I don't know a lot about boats, but my guess is that releasing ballast water is a less conspicuous event. There's no reason they'd have to pump it two stories up then release it from there. My guess is that they were testing their fire safety hoses. Or practicing their pirate evasion maneuvers.

  2. I did wonder about that upper hose.

    Mostly, the ballast water is pumped out of the side, through several outlets at once. However, I found that photo of one pumping from the deck, like the Aral Sea was doing.

    Whatever it was, it worked for me as a reminder, and not a pleasant one.

    Pirate evasion maneuvers is good; "Don't board us! We've got water pistols!"


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