NationStates Jolt Archive

Cost of Ballast Water Exchanges vs. Invasive Species

13-03-2004, 06:02
While we all have difference experiences and since facts can be biased, I urge everybody to use your own judgment while reviewing my post. But I'd like to address some of the cost questions that come up. First, all too often opponents to environmental projects complain that costs will be too high. What they really are telling us is that short-term costs will be higher. They rarely if ever make a statement on the long-term costs of failing to implement environmental protection.

It is a fact for most of our nations, that water quality is as important as water supply. If this was not the case, any nation adjacent to the ocean would have a near limitless supply of water. A similar argument follows when you look at riparian and ground water supplies. If your ground water aquifer is heavy in metals and other in-organic compounds, it often is unusable for human populations. Surface water sources have the same problems, plus added problems due to human runoff. Surface water high in organic carbon (dead plants) can become toxic to humans.

Many a water project has been justified not based solely on the amount of water is provides, but more importantly on the amount of water that humans can actually consume. If the water is of low quality, more of it can be hazardous to urban populations.

Now please take a minute to consider that our very industries have a similar relationship. More industry is not always a good thing. In order for an economy to grow, a nation needs to plan and encourage sustainable industries. Take for example the Trandoshan coal fields. For years Trandosha provided much of the coal to power many Northern Pacific nations. The coal mining industry was an incredible asset to Trandosha, but unfortunately the Trandoshan coal fields were not as large as believed. Though at its economic height, the Trandoshan scalp was one of the most valued currencies in the world, when the coal was gone, Trandosha had to quickly find a new resource to use to sustain its economy.

When a proposal such as the Ballast Water Cycling proposal before this NationStates UN, there is a short-term cost of implementing the resolution. But rarely does the debate move on to ask more important questions:

Q: What is the long-term cost associated with invasive species?

Excerpt taken from the editoral:

"Invasive species are an expensive addition to any ecosystem. The results are species loss, as in Mauritian forests which have been overwhelmed by Guava, and loss of ecosystem services. In the Sacramento Valley watershed of California, the invasive Mediterranean star thistle Centaurea solstitialis has led to a decline in available water valued at $16-56 million a year. And in the Cape region of South Africa, plantations of exotic pine have raised the cost of water by nearly 30%. These are serious figures that should grab the attention of any policy-maker."

Excerpt taken from Scientific American:

The benefits of many imported species are clear. Ninety-eight percent of the U.S. food supply comes from such introduced species as wheat, rice, domestic cattle and poultry, with a value of more than $500 billion a year. But plants such as purple loosestrife; invertebrates like the zebra mussels and gypsy moths; mammals, including rats, feral cats and pigs; and microbes like the AIDS virus are hardly so benign. A team of researchers from Cornell University, headed by ecologist David Pimentel, estimates that their depredations cost at least $123 billion a year in economic losses.

An imported species is something brought in on purpose. An invasive species is an unwelcomed addition to an ecosystem. I might throw a few more links down, but there really is ZERO debate that I've seen as to the dangers of invasive species.
But from the same article the following point is worth considering:

If anything, the estimates made in the damage assessment study, Environmental and Economic Costs Associated with Non-indigenous Species in the United States, are conservative. More than 40 percent of species on the U.S. Department of the Interior's endangered or threatened species lists are at risk primarily because of non-indigenous species--and a pricetag cannot be placed on their loss.

I tend to agree with this view. We really can't accurately forecast the costs of what will be lost for a few major reasons, the least of which includes, who knows what the value of an indigenous species will be in the future?
But the risk is not limited to animals killing animals. Invasive species include rats and vermin.

Meanwhile, rats, which probably arrived in the continental U.S. as stowaways on ships, now have an estimated population in the billions. On farms each rat is estimated to destroy grain and other goods worth $15 a year. In urban and suburban areas there is roughly one rat for every human. These rats cause fires by gnawing on electric wires, polluting foodstuffs and carrying diseases such as salmonellosis and leptospirosis.

That $15 / year is per rat, which the paper is estimating there are billions of. Worse yet, rats are known carriers of viruses which can effect human populations. Though rats aren't trasnfered in ballast water, years ago they did travel and spread through port cities. The Black Death was spread to human populations via rats (and in the cases of Norway and England) via shipping.


But keeping to the topic at hand, the cost of invasive marine species please consider the following:

The European featherduster worm (Sabella spallanzanii) was introduced into Australian waters likely as a fouling organism on ship hulls. The worm forms large mats that smother other sea life and it competes for food with native species. In Port Phillip Bay, near Melbourne, Victoria, it poses a major threat to the local scallop industry, which is worth an estimated A$15 million annually (~ $11 million/US) (Bonny 1995).

The comb jelly (Mnemiopsis leidyi), introduced to the Black Sea via the shipping industry in the early 1980s, now comprises up to 95% of the biomass in the Black Sea (CSIRO 1998). It feeds on zooplankton, eggs and fish larvae. The comb jelly reduced the anchovy fisheries from hundreds of thousands of tons to tens of thousands; thus, collapsing a fishery worth US$250 million/year (Harbison and Volovik 1994)

There have been global increases in "red tides" (toxic dinoflagellates or harmful algal blooms) over the past 20 years. Many of these species have been introduced by ballast water exchange (Bolch and Hallegraeff 1994, Carlton 1994). The dinoflagellates can produce toxins that can cause paralysis and sometimes death in humans who eat affected shellfish. Because of these adverse affects, shellfish harvesting has been closed down several times in areas worldwide. The economic impacts of harmful algal blooms can be significant. For example, a single outbreak of paralytic shellfish poisoning in Maine, US cost an estimated US$6 million in 1980 (Shumway et al. 1988).

I could share more costs, but the web has all you need to see. The facts are clear that this is a huge problem. A small handful of nations complain that this is a tax or unfair burden placed on them, but that is not true. If they aren't relying upon international shipping, naturally the costs of their shipped products will in fact decrease relative to imports. Landlocked nations actually stand to gain if there really is a significant cost to international shipping.

But I'm convinced there is not. Here is why. The time it takes to cycle ballast water is relative short compared with the length of the trip. The locations a captain can choose to cycle ballast water are nearly as extensive as the oceans themselves (they include over 80% of the oceans) - a conservative estimate assuming that the continental margins are about 21% of the oceans.

The goal of this resolution is to protect not only estuaries, but to extend to the continental shelves. Please visit for a nice graphics on ocean structure terminology (take your pick):

The critical question here is:
Q: What is the cost of cycling ballast tanks?

The answer has several components, but the obvious ones are: (1) how much will this delay a trip, and (2) what is the energy cost associated with operating the pumps an additional time? I've been quoting 24 hours based on my knowledge, but that may be more of an average. When I actually looked up how long it takes others, I found the following link:

In addition, the amount of time necessary to complete a ballast water exchange may be considerable for ocean-going ships from 15 to 41 hours.

But if you are really interested, read the entire chapter 3 (not just the link). In particular, I'd suggest reading the recommendations and conclusions. The next link talks a bit about the expense (no figures) of the other methods discussed:

Now I'm paraphrasing this MIT document, but basically it points of most of the arguments I've made but that a minority of people dismiss saying, "No, you are wrong. It is expensive! And it won't work." This paper points out that the time lost is minimal, because ballast water can be exchanged on route. The capital costs are low, thus cargo ships are not faced with having to develop expensive technologies. The policies can be enforced, because sea water has characteristic electrical conductivity measurements that are easy to take (and for the record, EC sensors are dirt cheap).

But I'm going to end on a dollar figure taken from Australia's:

Deep water ballast exchange costs the shipping industry over $23 million a year.

Naturally this is but one estimate, and to be fair I'll provide another link:

estimated that approximately 7,240 vessels would be affected and that the annual costs for compliance would total approximately $15.8 million

The above quote is taken from a pro-shipping industry response that endorsed a proposed US Coast Guard regulation (granted the regulation is a more relaxed version of the original 2,000 m depth proposal and from reading it, I think if we were to trust that estimate, our proposal would cost closer to the Australian estimate). But the point is, industry favors ballast water management.

Now please compare the above estimates with but a few of the estimated environmental costs listed above. You'll see that only a few invaders are necessary to equal the above cost to the shipping industry.
Keep in mind that the opponents to this proposal have yet to provide a single link supporting their claims. While this does not imply that their own personal experience is not valued, I have continued to provide my experience plus what I hope is a wide array of international opinions to support my nation's position. It is an informed opinion, not a conservative knee-jerk reaction.

With that, if you value the future of your economy, remember that failure to act soon, could bring serious harm not only to your aquatic environments, but could result in the introduction of toxic and biological risks to your human populations.
13-03-2004, 08:59
OOC: Another invasive species in the real world that is causing destruction of the native environment is the Crown of Thorns Starfish, which has caused much damage to Australian reefs, including the Great Barrier Reef, which is world heritage listed.

Aside from the environmental issue, tourism can also be hit by invasive species. Should the Reefs die, Australia would lose a great amount of tourism income.

(If this was in your post, Mikitivity, then I'm sorry for missing it.)
13-03-2004, 09:18
Crimany is that ever a lot of information. Kudos to you, fellow representative, for doing your part to educate the masses.

Sincerely yours,
Daniel M. Hillaker
Minister of Foreign Affairs
13-03-2004, 17:30
OOC: Another invasive species in the real world that is causing destruction of the native environment is the Crown of Thorns Starfish, which has caused much damage to Australian reefs, including the Great Barrier Reef, which is world heritage listed.

Aside from the environmental issue, tourism can also be hit by invasive species. Should the Reefs die, Australia would lose a great amount of tourism income.

(If this was in your post, Mikitivity, then I'm sorry for missing it.)

It was not in my post, but even had it been ... the length of it certainly means I appreciate other voices adding into the discussion things I've missed (in this case) or points that simply are worth repeating! :)

As to the amount of research, if people spend time on google, you'll find a wealth of information. Personally I'm completely frustrated that nations that speak out against this act as if this is a bad idea and yet they aren't supporting that opinion with any evidence.

Environmental issues are unlike civil rights issues, because the costs are at least documented. They may not be accurate to the nearest Spice Melange, but believe me ... any resource: be it coal, water supply, starfish population, or wheat production, is something all of our governments monitor. Plenty of non-governmental organizations and universities research these things to death and share their results freely.


13-03-2004, 21:08
wow thank you for all this supporting information. you've done a wonderful job providing answers for people.

{that outta get 'em. :)}
The Chicken traders
14-03-2004, 01:02
Congrats on your effective essay on why ballast water control is needed. I fully agree, however you still will not convince me or any other logically thinking leader to vote for the UN proposal.

One of my fellow collegues brought up the point that this proposal only effects UN member nations. He is highly correct. Your proposal will do nothing but damage your economy, mine as well as that of every other member nation. It is a logical fact that since there are many times more non-UN member nations that this proposal has absolutely no power over the issue at hand.

VOTE NO on ballast water control :!: :!: :!:
14-03-2004, 01:09
It is a logical fact that since there are many times more non-UN member nations that this proposal has absolutely no power over the issue at hand.

So you would rather let the problem rage on uncontrolled instead of solving as much of the crisis as possible? Under this "fix it all or not at all" logic, the UN should never take any kind of action unless it serves to elimanate the problem completely, a next to impossible feat. The benefits are still benefits, even if not 100% solvent.

Sincerely yours,
Daniel M. Hillaker
Minister of Foreign Affairs
The Chicken traders
14-03-2004, 01:17
A saying.... "whatever you do, do it well"

Excuse me for valuing my economy over supporting efforts against a problem that will remain unchanged by your actions. Most UN resolutions do not address worldwide problems that are unfixable by a comparative few. Most resolutions adress internal issues that are easily fixed by enacting new laws in our individual nations. I ask you now to check yourself before attacking the validity of having a UN. If you still believe that "all" resolutions are pointless then I suggest that you resign your position an a UN member and let those of us who care do our work.
14-03-2004, 03:18
Your coloring of the Sophistan delegation couldn't be more innacurate. We believe in the power of the United Nations to bring about positive global change, and for that reason suppor this resolution. Your position, on the other hand, says we should only support cure-all resolutions, which I think goes significant lengths to undermine the "baby-steps" mentality of the UN.

There are two flaws in your pessimism. First, you assume that your economy will suffer, an argument that has been turned so many times in other discussions it would make your head spin. If by "damage my economy" you mean "make it cheaper for my shipping industry to move goods because the deoxification systems enhance the life of hulls, sea chests, and other surfaces exposed to seawater, thus reducing overhead and increasing the longevity of each individual ship" I suppose you're right. Then again, I get the feeling you're not aware of these facts.

Second, you assume that this will have no effect whatsoever on the problem of marine species invasion. If every day ten people break into your house, but I have a method available to stop eight of them, which scenario is better? Ten break ins? Or two?

Let those simmer for a while.

Sincerely yours,
Daniel M. Hillaker
Minister of Foreign Affairs