The composition and frequency of antibiotic resistance of pathogenic bacteria, the abundance of heterotrophic aerobic bacteria (HPC) and possible in-situ use of chromogenic agar were investigated in the ships' ballast water coming from different regions of the world to the Sea of Marmara. Turkey for the first time. The samples that were taken from 21 unit ships coming from various marine environments of the Southern China Sea, the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean and the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara, Turkey in 2009 and 2010 were tested. 38 bacteria species, 27 of them pathogenic bacteria belonging to 17 familia, were detected. Vibrio cholera was not detected in the samples. However, the presence of a high number of HPC, including a cocktail of pathogenic bacteria showed that the ships carry a potential risk for the Sea of Marmara. (C) 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.