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Potable Water Testing

No one wants to risk their crew’s health and performance with contaminated water. Let Martek Marine help you stay on top of your water testing, keeping it clean and fresh with kits that can pick up the smallest contamination.

Drinking Water Testing

You just can’t take for granted that your onboard water supply is safe and clean to drink without proper testing. We all know the importance of clean safe drinking water and this is no different for your crew onboard your ship. No one wants to risk sick crew, poor performance, and damage to their reputation.

With ship safety, performance, and crew welfare our top priority we have developed the best in portable water testing kits to ensure your crew is looked after and performing at their best. They can only do this when all the basics are in place, such as having clean drinking water.

Potable Water Testing FAQ’s

The implications of improper water management on ships can be severe. More than 50 cases of Legionnaires disease, involving over 200 cases, have been associated with ships over the past three decades. In one incident alone, 50 seafarers became infected, resulting in one death. In addition, a high proportion of detected gastrointestinal disease outbreaks associated with ships have been linked to water consumed at sea, with contributing factors to the outbreaks including inadequate water disinfection and, alarmingly, drinking water becoming contaminated by sewage.

If you’re no guru on this topic, don’t fear! We’re here to help you and your crew stay safe and get to grips with the ins and outs of potable water in the maritime industry. Let’s start with the basics: the top 5 questions and answers relating to potable water…

What risks are involved with unsafe water?

Improper storage, testing, and sanitation of your onboard water is a catastrophe waiting to happen. In fact, it’s not an uncommon occurrence in the shipping industry. Legionnaires disease – a pneumonia-like respiratory infection caused by breathing in bacteria from untreated stagnant water – has been responsible for over 50 incidents associated with shipping just in the last 30 years.

Legionnaires isn’t the only risk factor when it comes to your vessel’s water supply. With raw sewage released just 12 miles from shore, you risk contaminating your water supply with bugs such as Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli, noroviruses, Salmonella spp, Shigella sp, Cryptosporidium sp, and Enterotoxigenic E. coli to name just a few.

Keeping your water properly tested and treated is not something you can overlook when you know the dangers that could be lurking in it. In fact, the risk is such that you must comply with regulations for water safety to operate legally.

How do your tests meet compliance?

We at Martek Marine know the importance of proper water sanitation on your vessels, and that’s why we have developed the highest quality and most straightforward range of portable water testing kits on the market. Our testing kits are guaranteed to keep you compliant with MLC 2006 and your duty to carry out proper testing on any consumable water on board.

We use equipment that makes testing your water as easy as possible so anyone onboard can do so without training.


What does potable water mean?

Potable water is water that is safe to drink, or for food preparation without carrying the risk of health problems. Water that has not been adequately treated, cleaned or filtered may contain harmful bacteria and contaminants which may cause serious illness.

Why do you need to test potable water on vessels?

Access to fresh water is vital to ensure the health of those working at sea, and a regular programme of potable water testing ensures that a ship’s ample supply of water for drinking, cooking and washing on board is safe to use.

How do ships obtain potable water?

Ships have various methods to obtain potable water, depending on their size, purpose, and available resources. Here are the commonly used methods:

  1. Shore Mains Supply: Some ports provide a freshwater supply through shore mains, similar to a regular municipal water supply. Ships can connect to these shore mains and fill their water tanks.

  2. Water Barge: In ports where shore mains are not available, ships can receive freshwater from water barges. These barges are specifically designed to transport and deliver potable water to ships at anchor or in port.

  3. Evaporator System: Many ships utilise an evaporator system that employs distillation to convert seawater into potable water. In this method, seawater is heated to produce steam. The steam is then condensed, and the freshwater condensate is collected. The evaporator system helps remove impurities and salt from seawater, producing freshwater suitable for drinking and other uses onboard.

  4. Reverse Osmosis: Another common method used by ships is reverse osmosis. This process involves pressurizing seawater and forcing it through a series of progressively finer filters. The filters remove impurities and salt, resulting in the production of fresh, potable water. Reverse osmosis is an effective and efficient way to obtain freshwater on ships.

Both the evaporator system and reverse osmosis have their limitations. For example, these methods may leave certain organic compounds, such as benzene and trichloroethylene, in the water, which can be harmful to humans. Therefore, the process must be carefully managed to ensure the water’s safety. Ships also take precautions and test any water sources being pumped onboard, especially when topping up drinkable water while at berth in a port. Regular testing and maintenance are essential to ensure the water’s quality and safety for consumption on board the ship.

What are the implications of contaminated water on ships?

Improperly managed water in storage and distribution systems on ships can be an established route for infectious disease transmission. The importance of water was illustrated in the review of more than 100 outbreaks associated with ships undertaken by Rooney et al. (2004), in which one fifth were attributed to a waterborne route.

Furthermore, water may be a source of primary cases of a disease that might then be transmitted via other routes. Most waterborne outbreaks of disease on ships involve ingestion of water contaminated with pathogens derived from human, or other animal excreta. Illnesses due to toxic chemical poisoning of water have also occurred on ships.

Contaminated water may contain dangerous waterborne bacteria such as; Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli, noroviruses, Salmonella spp, Shigella sp, Cryptosporidium sp, and Enterotoxigenic E. coli, which can affect humans when ingested as drinking water. Certain bacteria such as Legionella can even gain entry to the respiratory system from washing water suspended in the air, in the form of a fine mist created by a shower head.

How does potable water become unsafe?

Potable water may become unsafe for the crew due to; contaminated bunkered water; cross-connections between potable and non-potable water; improper water loading procedures; poor design and construction of potable water storage tanks, as well as inadequate disinfection.

So, you now know all about the dangers of contaminated water and the importance of properly managed water in storage in distribution systems on ships and that’s all for today!

If you have a burning question about potable water regulation compliance that won’t wait until tomorrow, then don’t delay! Contact us today for advice.

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