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Filters attract attention of Norwegian BWTS industry

30 Nov 2012
Stein Foss, Moss Hydro CEO

Stein Foss, Moss Hydro CEO

Two Norwegian companies are looking at filters, components which have proved troublesome in some ballast water treatment systems so far.

One, Moss Hydro, was recently established to specialise in design and manufacture of filters specifically for the BWTS industry, while the other, Optimarin, is an established BWTS company which is undertaking a test programme to establish the best filters for its system in difficult water conditions.

Moss Hydro was established in 1912 by former managers at OceanSaver, including its founder Stein Foss, who were looking for fresh challenges following the purchase of OceanSaver by BW Ventures and Investinor.

According to Mr Foss: "Current ballast water treatment (BWT) filters are prone to blockage, threatening the operation of BWT systems and therefore the ships that use them. Added to that, there aren't enough filter suppliers in the market, meaning that there will be huge bottlenecks as IMO ballast water mandates come into force up to 2016. These are very real concerns for a legion of shipowners and operators.”

"There are issues with reliability in this comparatively young, but very dynamic, marketplace," he explains. "Filters are susceptible to blockages from all sorts of particles and organic objects, from seaweed to ocean sediment. That creates critical problems. Moss Hydro filters have been designed specifically for the treatment of ballast water - to meet the challenges of the environment in a way that our competitors can't."

The principle behind the Moss Hydro filter is a self-adjusting pressure-balanced cleaning head that travels around the filter screen removing any detritus. Increased backwash fluid velocity rinses the system clean with focused force, while its closed nature ensures that external components will not stick.

As well as developing technology, the new company has been trying to ensure that it will be able to meet what it sees as a strong, and concentrated, market demand. Eric Leegwater, Moss Hydro's vice-president of sales and marketing, says that Moss Hydro has signed an exclusive manufacturing agreement with a leading European producer of stainless steel pressure vessels. This gives access to a modern robotised production facility of 20,000m², with 200 staff and a large capacity.

"These resources give us an extremely short turnaround time for orders," says Mr Leegwater, "a crucial point of difference as the approaching regulations threaten ever- larger supplier backlogs in the sector. We believe we will be able to meet any customer demands, no matter how sizable."

The automated manufacturing process ensures that every filter will be manufactured to close tolerances, with high welding quality, leading to product uniformity and high reliability.

The range of filters includes single and multi-screen designs, from Moss Hydro’s own engineering base in Poland - development, sales and marketing are based in Drammen, Norway.

The housings are made from super-duplex stainless steel, rather than the conventional carbon steel casings, resulting in a claimed weight saving of 50-70% over competing filter types, thanks to its high strength and corrosion resistance.

"We've planned carefully and made some sound decisions based on the latest technology and a great deal of combined individual experience in the maritime and filtration industries. We think we've laid the foundations for success in this most demanding of sectors," says Mr Foss. "There's an immediate short-term need for the right product solutions in this sector, but we are here to build this business into something special for the long-term. We aim to be the leading supplier of filters for the BWT industry. That's our stated goal and we already think that Moss Hydro is well-placed to work towards achieving that."

Meanwhile Norwegian BWTS provider Optimarin says that it is conducting independent testing of filters provided by Boll & Kirch, Filtersafe and Filtrex. The company uses filters from all three suppliers, and aims to find the optimum choice for differing, and demanding, sea conditions.

According to the company, high levels of nitrate concentrations in the Yellow Sea east of China and southwest of South Korea create particularly high densities of algae, leading to algae blooms – a rapid increase or accumulation in the population of algae in an aquatic system. Algal bloom concentrations may reach millions of cells per millilitre. Optimarin has successfully commissioned several systems in this region, but wants to test all system filters under equal seawater conditions.

For this purpose, Optimarin is setting up a test barge near Busan and Geoje, from which it will conduct a series of tests on 500m³ filters supplied by the three manufacturers. These on-site tests will monitor filter capacity, ensuring that each filter more than adequately cleans and processes large volumes of sea water from this area, as well as providing uninterrupted and trouble-free operation.

“We have decided to test our filter types, each built on different technologies, in challenging water conditions to provide accurate assessments of each filter and to further integrate high performance filtration processes in Optimarin’s specialist BWT technology,” said sales and marketing director Tore Andersen. “Simply we want to, first handedly, evaluate filtration performance in challenging marine environments and apply this experience to further improve and optimise Optimarin’s BWT system performance.”

Optimarin CEO Pål Sanner, while expressing confidence in his company’s system, has voiced concerns about the timescale in which the IMO Ballast Water Convention must be implemented. Mr Sanner says that three years is a very short time to meet the IMO BWT convention and urges shipowners to act more quickly.

“We estimate that only 5% of the some 77,800 BWT-applicable world fleet has ordered their systems. Hundreds of shipowners are stalling decisive action, which will severely affect future operations and earnings.”

Around 18,200 general cargo vessels, 6,400 passenger vessels and 6,300 offshore vessels must meet IMO’s BWT criteria by 2014. After that, the 2016 deadline will affect 9,000 bulk carriers, 14,000 tankers, 19,500 chemical carriers, ro-ro and combination vessels and 4,900 container vessels,

A scramble to meet global BWT regulations in time is likely to cause a serious bottleneck, Mr Sanner says. “And now with the US Coast Guard pushing their own ballast water regulation, global shipowners must ramp up their BWT decision-making processes.”

According to Optimarin, if all shipowners plan a BWT retrofit during a vessel’s five-year survey, about 11,000 retrofits must be completed between 2013 and 2016. Market observers estimate a peak in 2017 with 16,500 vessels needing to be retrofitted that year, an average of 45 systems per day.

“The big question is, will the supply side be able handle future BWT system demand?” asks Mr Sanner.

Images for this article - click to enlarge

Stein Foss, Moss Hydro CEO Pål Sanner – “will the supply side be able to handle BWTS demand?” Moss Hydro’s single screen filter interior Stein Foss, Moss Hydro CEO

Image copyright © Mercator Media 2014, or image used with permission of the copyright holder.