To evaluate a rapid and cost-effective method for monitoring bacteria in ballast water, several marine bacterial isolates were characterized by matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization-time of flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS). Since International Maritime Organization (IMO) regulations are concerned with the unintended transportation of pathogenic bacteria through ballast water, emphasis was placed on detecting species of Vibrio, enterococci and coliforms. Seawater samples collected from the North Sea were incubated in steel ballast tanks and the presence of potentially harmful species of Pseudomonas was also investigated. At the genus-level, the identification of thirty six isolates using MALDI-TOF MS produced similar results to those obtained by 16S rRNA gene sequencing. No pathogenic species were detected either by 16S rRNA gene analysis or by MALDI-TOF MS except for the opportunistically pathogenic bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa. In addition, in house software that calculated the correlation coefficient values (CCV) of the mass spectral raw data and their variation was developed and used to allow the rapid and efficient identification of marine bacteria in ballast water for the first time.