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1) Weight carried low in a boat to increase stability. The lower, the greater the benefit. Ballast can be lead, iron, concrete, etc., depending on the space available. Some boats require lead (a more expensive material) because the space available will not allow sufficient lighter material to achieve the required ballast weight.
2) A vessel "in ballast" is carrying no commercial cargo andtherefore is not earning any freight or revenue for the voyage.
3) Added weight either within or external to the hull added to improve the stability of a vessel or bring it down to its designed lines. A term common to wooden boat design/construction.