Buying a ballast water treatment system is the easy part

Hyde Marine has sold almost 400 systems. Hyde Marine has sold almost 400 systems.

The biggest challenge for ballast water treatment systems at the moment is meeting US Coast Guard requirements for testing, but owners will soon have their share of challenges too, says Wendy Laursen.

The rumours about the pending ratification of the ballast water management convention are gaining momentum. Italy, Turkey, Argentina and Japan have declared they will ratify in 2014. Indonesia, Philippines, Belgium and Finland have indicated they are on the way. These countries could swing the numbers needed.

The US Coast Guard requirements have already taken effect. There are doubts though that they are enforcing them. Over 150 extensions for specific vessels have been given even though there are EPA declared best available technologies on the market. 

The numbers don’t add up. The number of ships that should have complied minus the number of extensions and the number of vessels with systems is not zero. Yet, there is no news of prosecutions.

Established manufacturers such as Optimarin, OceanSaver and Hyde already have the alternative management system approval and are now working through the US type approval process. This means redoing most if not all of their testing as they are not allowed to be present during the tests, says Tore Andersen, CEO of Optimarin. 

Redoing the testing is an expensive undertaking. Yet, despite the rumours that the market is slow, Mr Andersen is positive about current activity. Optimarin has now sold over 300 systems for various types of vessels. Recent Ex approval means that the company can now fit systems to chemical tankers. 

Mr Andersen believes the rumours about ratification in 2014 or 2015 are likely to be correct, and he foresees a boom in the market between 2016 and 2020. Already, the market is expanding from a focus on newbuildings to a more active retrofit market, and already some shipowners are using their systems on a regular basis.

Using systems prior to being required to is a valuable exercise, says Eirik Lutnaes, global sales director for OceanSaver. “Most shipowners that have the equipment on board are not using it, but a few are. Their crews are gaining experience on how the systems work, and they are able to determine what changes might be required to their daily operations,” he said. “Anyway, it is not good for any marine equipment to stand idle for years.”

OceanSaver systems are suited to medium to large tonnage, and are being sought by shipowners with a focus on quality, reliability and long-term relationships, says Mr Lutnaes. He cautions shipowners to consider the potential bottleneck that is expected as a result of waiting for the convention to be ratified. Getting the hardware might not be a problem, but choice may be diminished in a rush of buyers. Securing engineering and design services could be a more limiting factor in timely cost-efficient installation.

RWO is tackling the potential shortage in engineering in-house. The company has its own 3D laser scanner for taking engine room measurements for retrofits. This, says RWO, reduces errors and saves time and money. The company already has in excess of 70 systems installed and is gaining positive operational feedback.

Hyde Marine is expanding its international presence with partnership agreements for installation of its Hyde Guardian Gold system with various installers, the latest being Grand Bahama Shipyard in Freeport, Grand Bahama Island, UK-based Cardiff Craftsmen, and Goltens Green Technologies, in the Netherlands. The Goltens agreement adds 3D laser scanning to the mix. More partnership announcements are expected soon, and Hyde has sold almost 400 systems.

As well as engineering and installation services, Damen Shipyards Group has developed a fully containerised system as an alternative to retrofitting fixed systems. Damen has also developed what it considers to be the world’s first mobile treatment solution, with containerised systems fitted to a vessel or a road trailer, to operate in ports and support ship deballasting operations.

Historically, about 50% of systems purchased and installed are electro-chlorination-based and 50% are UV-based, says Debra DiCianna, senior environmental solutions engineer at ABS. “Most initial installations are for newbuilds, and the shipyards have influenced, by their makers list, the systems used. The market may change with the increase in retrofit installations due to space limitations. 

“The most popular system will be the vendor that receives USCG type approval first,” says Ms DiCianna. “Many have focused on the purchase of equipment. As the convention is ratified and comes into force and USCG regulations come into play, the practical side of ship operations and use of systems will need to be evaluated and this may result in changes [to the type of systems chosen].”

The system options continue to expand at a high rate as they pass through the IMO approval process. Recent entrants include KT Marine of Korea and Kurita Water Industries of Japan. 

Some of the companies bringing out systems get basic IMO approval, then you don’t hear from them again, says consultant Jad Mouawad. “What's happening? Well it turns out that many do work towards basic approval from the IMO, then realise that this is where the work starts, designing the system to be competitive, to meet the requirements, to be cheap in production etc. Many of the companies that I’m dealing with struggle a lot at that stage.”

So far, UV is selling most for ships with capacities smaller than 1000m³/h, says Mr Mouawad. Electrolysis and ozone are popular for the higher flow systems. “However, the market in the past years has been so special that I think it is impossible to predict a trend for the future.”

Like Ms DiCianna, he believes that operational experience will be important. “What we don’t know is whether those systems are really doing the job. While you would expect that systems not doing the job would sound alarms and disrupt operations, which would finally be reflected in the feedback from shipowners; what’s interesting is that there is no standard for control and automation for those systems. No one knows how they are connected or approved to function on board. So we may not be able to get the essential feedback that we are all looking for that easily. More digging and more monitoring may be required.”


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