- Technology - Outside the Bio-Box

By Megan Hickling

Outside the Bio-Box

Marina Ibiza has become the first marina in Spain to use a Bio-Box, which employs a 100% natural product to digest hydrocarbon spills…

Just 1 litre of oil can contaminate 1 million litres of water, so even the smallest oil spill at a marina can have a widespread negative effect. In addition to being harmful to the paint of vessels, this contamination causes various issues for the marine ecosystem. Oil spills, even relatively minor ones in marinas, hinder the photosynthesis of plant life and disrupt the key water-repelling or insulating capacity of fur and feathers, while also wreaking havoc on the internal and reproductive health of marine life that consumes the oil.

MARPOL regulations call for the use of physical barriers such as floating booms to contain large spills, but the chemical dispersants used to break down the oil are less regulated and can be equally damaging in the long run. The Bio Box offers a small-scale alternative built on an intriguing principle.

"This product is based on microorganisms composed of enzymes and bacteria. The enzymes are responsible for breaking down the molecular chain (in this case, the hydrocarbon enzymes), making them smaller so that the bacteria can digest them by transforming them into CO2 and clean water, without leaving residues," explains Mirko Abbruzzese, Co-Founder of La Alternativa Eco and promoter of Bio-Box in Spain.

The box is installed near the fuel point of the marina. When a spill occurs, the microorganisms inside are released into the sea, where they generate a natural foam, indicating that they are converting the contaminated water into clean water until the process is complete, leaving only clean water behind.

"The bacteria lie dormant in a special container on land, says Abbruzzese. "If necessary, they’re channelled into the sea and start creating their colony. However, they always need sustenance, i.e., hydrocarbon (petrol, diesel, mineral oil, etc.) and oxygen, which we add with an air pump. When they reach the water and come into contact with oxygen, they’re activated and start to act”

The oxygen pump and hose mechanism accompanying the box is powered by a solar power panel, further improving the environmental impact of its installation. Daniel Marí, Manager of Marina Ibiza, is closely monitoring the results of these small microorganisms.

"There's a widespread belief in the yachting industry that the right thing to do in the event of a spill is to pour a common washing-up liquid into the water because it has a dispersing effect. However, this product is harmful to marine flora and fauna and has a long-lasting impact on the marine environment," says Abbruzzese. He emphasizes that these bacteria provide a 100% organic bioremediation solution in case of accidents, with results that are immediately visible.

This is an example of some of the many solutions and methods available to marinas to reduce their direct environmental impact, such as environmentally friendly cleaning products and proper grey and black water management. However, these solutions rely on marinas being aware and conscious of the environmental impacts of marina operations.

Marina Ibiza claims a "philosophy of giving back to the sea everything that the sea provides us with," and has implemented various small actions and innovations with the hope of forming a more complete environmental protection system.



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