Virginia's Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) received national recognition for its assistance in the development of a ballast-water processing system designed to reduce the introduction of invasive foreign plankton transported by cargo ships. The project with Old Dominion University
and Browning Transport Management was selected as "outstanding" in the technology assistance category of the National Association of Management and Technical Assistance Centers (NAMTAC) Project of the Year Awards competition. The award was presented last night at the NAMTAC 2002 Fall Awards Banquet in Asheville, NC, to Robert Harrell, CIT's vice president of regional operations. The award is CIT's 16th NAMTAC award in the past 10 years.
Each year millions of gallons of water are transported between countries as ballast in commercial and government vessels. In this ballast water, vast arrays of plankton and microorganisms are transported from one ecosystem to another, causing billions of dollars of damage while threatening or possibly eliminating native aquatic species.
As a result of research initiated in 1997 by Norfolk-based coal-exporter W.J. Browning Co. with Old Dominion University, CIT provided technical approval for an initial grant from the Commonwealth to build a prototype for the Aquahabistat(TM). The system uses a vacuum method to deoxygenate ballast water, reducing invasive species
at the zooplankton stage to de minimus levels. The Aquahabistat(TM) has been tested successfully in a land-based pilot, and CIT recently was awarded a $250,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for further testing of a shipboard application. The grant will be used by Browning Transport Management and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science to containerize and install the Aquahabistat(TM) on a commercial, oceangoing vessel, as part of its mechanical system, in the final stage of the evaluation process prior to manufacturing.
"This is the final step in a process that is a win for our marine industries, serves our coal-export transportation industry, and when manufactured, will create new jobs for Virginians," said George C. Newstrom, Virginia's Secretary of Technology and acting CIT president. "We foresee widespread adoption of the Aquahabistat(TM) within the global shipping industry, and having this expertise resident in the Commonwealth will add yet another intellectual asset to the world-class maritime industry economic cluster of Hampton Roads."