Ballast Water Testing

  • Overview
  • Benefits of Testing
  • Why Work With NSF?
  • Testing Process

NSF International is the first independent laboratory (IL) accepted by the United States Coast Guard (USCG) to evaluate and test technologies designed to treat ballast water on ships in order to prevent the spread of non-native aquatic species in lakes, rivers and coastal waters.

While essential to the safe and efficient operation of modern shipping, ballast water can pose economic, ecological and public health risks when it carries non-native species around the world. The USCG regulations were developed to limit the release of live organisms in ship ballast water to reduce the risks associated with the spread of aquatic invasive species.

NSF is leading a partnership between Retlif Testing Laboratories, the Great Ships Initiative and the Maritime Environmental Resource Center to test and evaluate systems to the Coast Guard requirements. NSF International managed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Water Quality Protection Center under which the protocol that is the basis for ballast water management system (BWMS) testing was developed with significant input by various stakeholders.

Download an informational webinar on the program or a slideshow about the program.

Search for U.S. Coast Guard-approved ballast water management systems on the United States Coast Guard Maritime Information Exchange website.

To find out more about the NSF ballast water management system testing program, call +1 734.769.5347 or email

Benefits of Testing

The United States Coast Guard’s final rule addressing standards for living organisms in ships’ ballast water discharged in U.S. waters became effective on June 21, 2012.

Vessels subject to the regulations are required to install and operate a ballast water management system (BWMS) satisfying the treatment standard. New vessels constructed on or after December 1, 2013 must have operating systems on delivery. All vessels constructed before that date have phased compliance dates based on the vessels’ ballast water capacity.

Compliance to the protocol allows vessels to fully operate in the waters of the U.S.

Why Work With NSF?

NSF International has provided support to the U.S. Coast Guard for more than 30 years as a recognized facility for testing and evaluation of marine sanitation devices and oil pollution prevention equipment.

NSF is an industry leader in the areas of water and wastewater certification programs, and the NSF brand is the standard of excellence. Rely on NSF for your ballast water management system type approval testing services.

Testing Process

Ballast water management system (BWMS) manufacturers apply to NSF International and the U.S. Coast Guard for testing, review and evaluations.

NSF coordinates testing between program partners Retlif Testing Laboratories, the Great Ships Initiative and the Maritime Environmental Resource Center. Our coordination includes preparing test plans; reviewing test data (technical and quality assurance); evaluating BWMS material design and construction plus the operation, maintenance and safety manual; and submitting the test and evaluation results to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Land-based testing determines if a BWMS can effectively treat ballast water to meet the ballast water discharge standard (BWDS) requirements of 33 CFR Part 151, Subparts C and D. Shipboard tests and evaluations then verify that the BWMS, when installed and operated on a vessel, consistently produces ballast water that meets the BWDS requirements, and that the operation and maintenance parameters identified in the manufacturer’s operation, maintenance and safety manual are consistently achieved.

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