FlowCam® - Flow Imaging Microscopy Blog

FlowCam as a Systematic Ballast Water Analyzer

All ocean vessels require ballast water to help maintain stability and maneuverability during transit. Ballast water is taken on or discharged by tankers, cargo ships, and cruise ships when changes in cargo load, weight distribution of the vessel, or the sea conditions require it. As ballast water is taken up in one location and discharged in another, marine organisms living in the ballast water are often discharged into unrelated, foreign waters. These non-indigenous species may become invasive and cause environmental, ecological, economical and even human health damage.  

Transport System for Potentially Invasive Species: New Regulations

National and international regulations have been adopted to mitigate and prevent further ecosystem invasions by organisms released with ballast water. Starting in September 2017, new regulations will take effect to limit the introduction of foreign organisms via ballast water discharge. Technical guidelines have been established to limit concentration and size of viable organisms.  Achievement of said guidelines and adherence to standards will require the use of approved Ballast Water Treatment Systems (BWTS).  

Enter FlowCam

A paper published in Science of The Total Environment by Romero-Martinez et al. (2017) focuses on the viability of using the FlowCam in conjunction with a Ballast Water Treatment System to measure and monitor size and concentrations of potentially harmful organisms prior to the release of ballast water.  According to the Romero-Martinez et al., precise, yet fast methods for monitoring the size, concentration, and viability of organisms in ballast water are necessary to minimize the interference with the normal schedule of ships.  

Ballast Water particles imaged by FlowCam

FlowCam provides for an ideal complement to Ballast Water Treatment Systems (BWTS) as it can quickly and easily detect and measure size and concentration of micro organisms after ballast water has been treated. Additionally, data can be collected, recorded, and transferred without bias from the device operator.

  • FlowCam provides original data and objective proof for evaluating efficacy of the BWTS 
  • FlowCam data files facilitate the inspections that are required by Port State Authorities
  • FlowCam aids in early detection of threat species and environmental monitoring for risk assessment.

Read the entire paper here: Assessment of imaging-in-flow system (FlowCam) for systematic ballast water management.


L. Romero-Martinez, C. van Slooten, E. Nebot, A. Acevedo-Merino, L. Peperzak (2017). Assessment of imaging-in-flow system (FlowCam) for systematic ballast water management. Science of the Total Environment v. 603-604, p. 550-561.


Topics: Marine Research, Invasive Species, Aquatic Research