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Ratification Just Around the Corner

by April 8, 2016 General

Ballast Water Management Convention needs just 0.18% more global tonnage

With several countries signing the IMO Ballast Water Management Convention (BWMC) towards the end of last year, the maritime world held its breath in anticipation of the final ratification. It turned out to be an anti-climax because, here we are, several months down the road, still on the brink of conclusion. With last month seeing Belgium confirming its commitment, all that is now needed is the signing by a country (or countries) representing more than 0.18 per cent global merchant shipping tonnage. Maritime Holland spoke to several key players from the ballast water industry about the implications of playing the waiting game.

Ratification of the BWMC will see a jump in the number of vessels needing retrofit installation of ballast water treatment systems. In the process of complying with the new regulations, ship owners and operators will have a wealth of products to choose from, but the question remains – are the yards ready and do they have the capacity to cope with the demand?

Dry dock slots

“Yes, the yards are ready”, states Netherlands Maritime Technology sector manager Sander den Heijer. “We estimate that it will take approximately two days in dry dock to install all the equipment under the water line. The work can take place in parallel with other operations so the amount of time spent in dry dock will be minimally affected. And the vessel has to be in the dry dock anyway for its five-year survey so that means there will not be that much pressure on the number of dry dock slots. Of course, it will take another couple of days to perform the works above the water line. Project management will also be of utmost importance – ship owners will need to inform the yards well in advance.” As to when the Convention will be ratified, Den Heijer is as expectant as the rest of the maritime world. “At the moment we are all waiting for it to happen”, he says. “Maybe some countries will announce it at the next Marine Environment Protection Committee, but in the end nobody knows.

Time to fine-tune

The fact that ratification has been slow to arrive has meant that certain ballast water treatment providers have been able to finetune their products. Alfa Laval global business manager Stephen Westerling Greer explains: “We have been able to invest time and money to improve our products so when the market does come we will be able to give the customer the least amount of heartache and the best support and the best products available. Our third generation of products entered the market in 2014 and PureBallast 3.1 came last year. This is more product improvement than product development.”

Following ratification of the BWMC, Alfa Laval is anticipating a flood in demand. The company is gearing up its resources to meet the expected boost demand. “It’s one thing to buy equipment, but who’s going to engineer it into the vessel? Serviceability is also important. Alfa Laval will be ready, not only with the technical solutions, but also with an internal network of well-trained engineers and a strong external network of engineering partners.” Part of the preparation includes organising training courses that take in all technical aspects of the PureBallast design and installation. Following ratification, Alfa Laval’s R&D will continue: “Vessels are changing so we need to stay up-to-date. Not only with the Triple E ships though. We will also be specialising in small vessel solutions.”

Double treatment

Being able to offer the right ballast water treatment system for the job will also be a key issue upon ratification, says Venteville managing director Michiel Veen who works closely with sister company Radio Holland, both part of RH Marine Group, on ballast water (monitoring) solutions. “We offer two systems, based on different technologies. The first is a chlorine-based system from EVOQUA – this really is proven technology, having been used for decades in antifouling systems for ship cooling systems. The second uses UV-C light methods: this comes from UVspecialist BIO-SEA. The market shows us that the requirements for smaller capacity systems – up to 1,000 cubic metres per hour – will be met by the UV techniques and chlorine-based systems will match larger requirements. This is because chlorine systems will be more efficient than UV systems over a certain capacity; the Capex/Opex discussion. Having both products in our portfolio means we can cover the whole market. This way we always have the right solution for a customer’s particular situation.”

Impact on supply chain

Ratification will also pose logistical challenges: in terms of equipment and personnel. “The market will open up quickly after ratification”, informs Veen. “Our supply chain is ready for this. Furthermore, we have stocks of the more specialist components like UV light tubes and sealings. In terms of personnel, our strength is that we are connected to Radio Holland, as we are both part of the RH Marine Group. Therefore we can offer the support of their strong global maintenance and service network. This will be beneficial to our customers in terms of installation, service and maintenance on a worldwide level. For example, if a customer already has a service and maintenance contract with Radio Holland, the ballast water equipment service and maintenance can be integrated into that contract. Plus, we can add remote monitoring and logging of the ballast water treatment installation through Radio Holland’s GTAC – Global Technical Support – centre.” 

Retrofit alternative

Radio Holland’s GTAC centre adds remote monitoring and logging of the treatment installation

Retrofitting a vessel with ballast water treatment equipment is not the only way ship owners can comply with future regulations. Mobile port-based systems can serve as an alternative for ship owners who may not want to retrofit an onboard treatment system says Gert-Jan Oude Egberink, Damen manager ballast water treatment. “Perhaps because their ships operate on non-exempted fixed routes or their ships are so old as to make any investment in such a system prohibitively expensive”, he says. For such operators, Damen’s InvaSave represents a potential solution. “Port-based ballast water treatment has added value for ports clients as it increases the support services offered to customers, it will prevent expensive delays in ports caused by failing onboard systems. Alternatives like InvaSave are also required for ports that need to provide backup in the case of emergencies when ships’ on board treatment systems fail.”  The equipment is housed in a self-sufficient mobile container, which can be put on board a service barge or moved around the port on a trailer or a pontoon. Whilst in port, a vessel needing to discharge its ballast water can connect to the InvaSave unit, which treats the water in compliance with IMO standards. For vessels with much larger ballast water capacities, it is possible to interconnect several systems.

The American factor

While the bulk of this article has covered the IMO Ballast Water Management Convention, there is another factor at play that will also have considerable consequences on the international maritime market. This is the US Coast Guard’s (USCG) own regulations concerning ballast water treatment. In the near future, a large number of vessel owners and operators will find themselves having to comply with two sets of standards. This, of course, will depend on an individual company’s operations. “If your business is in Singapore and all you do is sail between Singapore and Australia, then the USCG regulations will not affect you. IMO compliance will be enough”, Veen comments. “However, many ship owners will have to comply with both IMO and USCG standards, which is causing a bottleneck between the two. The question of US compliance is definitely a very important and complex issue. The investments that a ship operator makes have an impact on the business all the way to the resale value of that vessel. When you make an investment, you have to be sure it’s the right one.”

Tom Scott

This article was previously published in Maritime Holland edition #2 – 2016.