Saudi Aramco's Ballast System Gets Patent

The United States Patents and Trademark Office recently granted a patent to Saudi Aramco for the invention "Ballast Exchange System for Marine Vessels."

The inventor, Capt. Tom J. Scott of Vela International, describes the invention as a method for replacing existing ballast water in the ballast tanks of a ship while the ship is underway. The method uses a seawater inlet port in the bow of the ship that admits water when the ship is moving, to produce a pressure that is greater than the pressure of the ballast water that is to be replaced.

The seawater from the inlet port is directed into the bottom of the ballast tanks where it rises to displace the existing water from outlet ports in the top of the ballast tanks.

"According to existing environmental regulations," Scott said, "all carried ballast water must be chemically treated before being discharged to the sea."

The value of the patent, granted July 27, rests in its potential to be a less-expensive method compared with other technologies and chemical treatment required by the International Marine Organization's (IMO's) Ballast Water Management regulations.

The administrator of Intellectual Assets Management, Dr. Mohammed A. Alansari, said that once IMO approval is granted to implement it, the new design will:

  • Address an environmental issue.
  • Use existing ballast systems with no added energy to operate.
  • Require no expensive technologies to buy, install or maintain.
  • Be designed to operate without crew monitoring and require little maintenance.