Back from the brink: Gently does it for Oceansaver
Norwegian ballast water technology provider Oceansaver has been given a new lease of life following its bankruptcy and rescue by new owner TeamTec last year, writes Charlie Bartlett.
Norway’s Oceansaver BWTS won US Coast Guard type approval early, on 5 May 2016. Based on scalable electrodialysis, it was one of few non-UV systems to make the cut and seemed in an enviable position. But a disastrous arbitration case against Bollfilter Nordic, manufacturer of mesh filters used as a precursor to the system’s main treatment phase, left Oceansaver to pick up all arbitration costs and legal expenses. After endless delays of IMO’s Ballast Water Management Convention, downward price pressure, an absence of retrofit work and depressed newbuilding activity, this was the last straw. With only 180 systems fitted despite a proven technology and privileged market position, investors could hold on no longer, and the company went bankrupt in September 2017.
Within two weeks, TeamTec, part of Norway’s IMS group, acquired Oceansaver. With ballast water experience after a partnership with Evonik Industries AG, IMS was well-placed to make the acquisition. “In spring 2017 Evonik closed down that investment because they were uncertain of the technology,” explains Olaf Evjen Olsen, CMO. “After that we were without a ballast water treatment system, so we looked into the market again. Oceansaver was a serious player with a safe system, who had invested a lot of money in the technology and were the second to get USCG type approval.”
Since then, manufacturing and testing have since moved from Drammen to Acklund, and Oceansaver sold 5 systems - “with one promising order” - two in 2017, a further two so far in 2018, with a remaining system to be fitted later this year.
Small alterations are being made, explains Edvin Tunheim Tønnessen, head of sales and projects. “There are small changes, but we have to stay within the certification of the approval that we already have. Oceansaver sold a lot of systems from 2010. Mark one was a completely different system, much more advanced; they had nitrogen and other strange things. Those systems cannot be upgraded – if they’re still working on the vessels they can continue. But Oceansaver quickly went over to the Mk2 system, which they used for IMO and USCG approval.
“Oceansaver were the guinea pigs [during USCG tests]—they got a lot of additional requirements from USCG and independent lab DNV GL. They were very careful to do all the tests with third parties. This is unique - competitors have chosen easier and less expensive in-house tests. Now competitors are struggling, because they did their testing internally, and class is now pushing them to demonstrate their hydrogen systems, for example, are up to par.”
Extensive testing is a major selling point for Oceansaver, Tønnessen indicates. Only three months of corrosion testing, for example, is required by IMO. BWTS survived a 12-month DNV GL laboratory test with no corrosion.
“Some of these tests have led to a highly improved system,” says Tønnessen. “The software system was highly improved just before Oceansaver went bankrupt. There are a lot of vessels out there now with the old software, which is not the smartest – it’s a bit simplified, with many common alarms. On our disinfection skid we have various modules and a rectifier to run the system. On the older system it’s not critical if one of these modules fails, but the alarm will shut down the system. The newer software, will automatically detect which module is going wrong, disconnect it automatically, and continue running.”
While rivals plan to undercut on price to corner the spares market, Teamtec is taking a more conservative approach. “We can live with or without Oceansaver,” says Olsen. “We’re not going to lose all our money on it. We’re building up slowly, step by step.
“In 2017 we didn’t lose any money on Oceansaver, but we didn’t earn any. This year, maybe a small plus. But we are not going to risk our reputation by being too eager.”
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