FastBallast Integrated Ballast Water Compliance Monitor

FastBallast Integrated Compliance Montior - capable of determining the compliance of treated ballast water at the IMO D2 & USCG Discharge Standards

Chelsea Technologies Group’s FastBallast Integrated Ballast Water  Compliance Monitor is an ultra-sensitive solution for continually monitoring large volumes of inlet and outlet water of a ballast water treatment system at the D2 (10 to 50 µm) regulatory limit. High sampling rates, made possible by incorporating a Single Turnover One Pulse (STOP) detection method, makes FastBallast better suited to analysing low densities of phytoplankton cells at the D2 threshold than more common (Multiple Turnover) PAM methods.


FastBallast’s cutting edge design enables such a rapid and detailed analysis that it is the only technology that can operate in flow-through mode, providing a continuous, real time update on discharge compliance. Therefore is can dramatically increase the volume of water analysed, producing a more representative sample.

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Users & Advantages


  • Manufacturers of Ballast Water Treatment Systems
  • Ship Operators
  • Analytical Laboratories



  • Provides continuous compliance testing to the D2 limit (10 - 50 µm in the smallest dimension)
  • Detection limit of < 1 cell/mL
  • Size-independent measurement of cell density
  • Sampling issues associated with analysing small static volumes at close to the D2 threshold are overcome by analysing enough water to gain a representative sample in a contained system. 
  • Very low level of false negatives and negligible possibility of false positives
  • Wide dynamic range provides a high tolerance of background fluorescence (from dead cells, CDOM and other sources)
  • High level of turbidity rejection
  • Can be installed with any ballast water treatment system
  • Long service intervals (greater than two years)

Ballast Water Monitoring

Ballast Water Monitoring
It has long been accepted that ballast water functions as a vector for the transfer of harmful organisms. The IMO ‘Ballast Water Management Convention, 2004’ was established to tackle the problem of invasive species and is being adopted around the world.  Ballast water discharge must not contain more than 10 cells/mL of 10 - 50 μm in the smallest dimension. Because this size range is dominated by phytoplankton, active chlorophyll fluorometry is widely viewed as the ideal test method.  The FastBallast active chlorophyll fluorometer provides continual compliance-level testing, where other systems provide indicative static sample results. 


Table 1 Standard Procedure

Table 1: FastBallast provides an on board compliance-level test

Integrated Solution

Integrated Solution

Ballast water continually flows through the FastBallast System to monitor the efficiency and efficacy of a ballast water treatment system to the D2 level. This is the only solution available that analyses enough ballast water to provide a truly representative sampling. The test result comprises Pass/Fail, confidence level and cell density (cells/mL).

Size Matters!

Size Matters!

Table 2: Data demonstrating FastBallast analysis is independent of cell size.

analysis independent of cell size

Table 2 illustrates how cells of different sizes and species can dramatically affect the results of an indicative test. With T. punctigera (a large diatom), the level 1 (indicative) test generates a false positive (a FAIL result that should have been a PASS). The level 2 (compliance) test correctly assesses the sample as a PASS. With D. salina (a small chlorophyte), the level 1 test indicates a cell density below 25% of the microscope-based result. The level 2 test is much closer, at 85% of the microscope-based result.


Figure 1: Distribution based analysis

Fig 1 distribution


Figure 1 shows selections from the distribution data (variable fluorescence, Fv) used to generate the level 2 test values in table 2. While both samples report the same Fv, the range of values for T. punctigera, as a proportion of the mean value, is clearly many times larger than for D. salina. This difference arises from the Poisson distribution within the sample and provides the basis of the size-independent distribution method used for level 2 testing by FastBallast.

FastBallast vs. Indicative Testing


FastBallast vs. Indicative Testing

Table 2 FastBallast Measurement Approach

Table 3: FastBallast's measurement approach


Indicative tests (level 1 test) performed with other fluorescence-based systems must assume the amount of fluorescence per cell, which can produce a large error as the fluorescence emitted from cells of different sizes and species varies enormously. The FastBallast level 1 (indicative) test provides a continuous indication of whether a sample is grossly compliant or non-compliant. If the level 1 test produces a result 4% and 4000% of the D2 threshold value for a PASS/FAIL, it automatically triggers a level 2 (compliance) test. The FastBallast level 2 test is as accurate as shore based analysis and will always generate a high confidence result.


The Ultimate System

The Ultimate System

FastBallast provides an ultra-sensitive solution for continually monitoring large volumes of inlet and outlet water of a ballast water treatment system at D2 regulatory limit. High sampling rates, made possible by incorporating a Single Turnover One Pulse (STOP) detection method, makes FastBallast better suited to analysing low densities of phytoplankton cells at the D2 threshold than more common (Multiple Turnover) PAM methods.

When analysing flowing water, FastBallast first is performing a level 1 indicative test in near real-time.  If this generates a clear PASS or FAIL (i.e. less than 4% or greater than 4000% of the PASS/FAIL threshold, respectively), the system stops the water flow and performs a level 2 detailed analysis and the result is reported. If the initial result falls between these limits, FastBallast automatically extends the test to level 2, which is completed in less than 8 minutes.

In contrast to other bulk sample fluorescence methods, the distribution-based FastBallast level 2 test does not require assumptions to be made about the amount of fluorescence per cell and estimates cell densities within the margin of error for microscope-based testing between zero and 100 cells/mL. With FastBallast’s level 2 test, false negatives are extremely unlikely and false positives are virtually impossible. In contrast, estimates of cell density from alternative bulk sample tests can be orders of magnitude away from the true cell density. Consequently, false positive results can only be minimised by setting the threshold for a PASS so low that false negatives become more likely, even at high cell densities.

To allow for potential changes to the regulations, FastBallast also incorporates four excitation wavelengths to provide greater flexibility for interrogating cyanobacteria.



User interface Ethernet to ship control and display system
Sample volume 20 mL minimum
Interrogated volume 0.5 mL
Excitation Four channels (Royal Blue, Blue, Green and Orange/Red)
Sensitivity <1 cell/mL
Dynamic range 0 – 4000 cells/mL
Time to result

Continuous for level 1

<10 minutes for level 2 with isolated sample volume

Power Ship ac mains
Connectivity USB, Bluetooth or Ethernet
External dimensions

800 (H) x 600 (W)

x 300 (D) mm

Mass 40 kg
IP rating IP65 (with electronics door closed)
Service interval Greater than two years

 In view of our continual developments, the designs and specifications of our products may vary from those described.

Ocean Hitchhikers

Ocean Hitchhikers

‘Alien species’ describes any species that is not native to that ecosystem, whereas an ‘invasive species’ is a term defined legally in the US as ‘an alien species whose introduction does or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health’.


Non-native species are one of the biggest threats to global biodiversity, 2nd only to habitat loss, so considering that we have already entered into ‘the 6th mass extinction on Earth’, this is a serious issue that needs our attention.


One of the largest vectors for marine invasive species is through ships ballast water, where water is used to fill a ship’s ballast tanks in one region and then discharged in another.  It’s been estimated that 7,000 species are present within a ship’s ballast water at any one time and depending on a ships trade route, there can easily be over 100 million plankton specimens carried in 1m3 of ballast water (Kabler, 96). So, considering the shipping industry transfers something like 10 billion tonnes of ballast each year, these risks of invasion are tremendous.


Most non-native species do cause harmful ecological effects, and the UK alone is harboring over 2,000 alien species that have become quite happily established. This is a huge problem for global economy as a government assessment has estimated that this is costing the UK economy £1.7 billion annually, and estimates from the US are as high as $137 billion every year!


Prevention is particularly important in the marine environment, where control and eradication become technically challenging – and aquatic species tend to find it easier to become established.

Invasive species

1Zebra mussel

Zebra mussel: Russia to the USA

Settled in extremely dense aggregations all over the States, reducing the amount of plankton, blocking internal waterways and threatening 30 species of mussel with extinction.


Asian Kelp: Asia to S. Australia

Rapidly displaced seabed communities


Mnemiopsis leidyi,ctenophore: N. America to Black Sea

Reached densities of 1kg per m2 and essentially collapsed the Black Sea commercial fisheries – annual losses of $500M on anchovies alone


Red Tide algae: 16 types introduced to the China Sea – costing $10 billion a year!!!


Download datasheet

Technical paper
Using FastRepetition Rate fluorometry to monitor phytoplankton at the IMO D2 standard within ballast water discharge, K Oxborough & HG Chan, CTG, Jan 2013.

Video: "Invaders From the Sea"
Fantastic film giving a unique insight into an important environmental issue: the transfer of harmful organisms in ships' ballast water. This amazing story looks at how this phenomenon is affecting our coasts and millions of lives around the world and the measures taken by the global community to fight against these alien stowaways.
Credit: BBC Worldwide-IMO Production. Globallast is a cooperative initiative of the Global Environment Facility, UN Development Programme &  IMO.  Learn more about the issues around Ballast Water Management - check out the IMO website.

Want to know more about 'Single/Multiple turnover methods' or 'variable fluorescence', please contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .