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Understanding Ballasting and Deballasting Operation in Ships

Ballasting or de-ballasting is a process by which sea water is taken in and out of the ship when the ship is at the port or at the sea. The sea water carried by the ship is known as ballast water.

Ballast or ballast water is sea water carried by a vessel in its ballast tanks to ensure its trim, stability and structural integrity. Ballast tanks are constructed in ships with piping system and high capacity ballast pumps to carry out the operation.

In ancient times, ships used to carry solid ballast for stability as the cargo was minimal or there was no cargo to be carried. However, as time passed difficulties were faced during loading and discharging of solid cargo. The process of transferring of solid cargo was also time-consuming and for this reason solid ballast was replaced by water ballast. As sea water was readily available and in huge amount, it was used for the ballasting and de-ballasting process.


Ballasting or de-ballasting is required when the ship is to enter a channel, cross any canal like Panama canal and Suez Canal, during loading or unloading of cargo, and when ship is going for berthing.

More Specific and Understandable Illustration of Ballasting and De ballasting

When no cargo is carried by the ship, the later becomes light in weight, which can affect its stability. For this reason, ballast water is taken in dedicated tanks in the ship to stabilize it. Tanks are filled with ballast water with the help of high capacity ballast pumps and this process is known as Ballasting.

Ballasting Process

However, when the ship is filled with cargo, the stability of the ship is maintained by the weight of the cargo itself and thus there is no requirement of ballast water. The process of taking out ballast water from the ballast tanks to make them empty is known as de-ballasting.

Deballasting Process

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