DISCOVER Magazine #7

Preparing for ballast water D-day

Published in category: Editor’s choice

After a very long wait spanning more than 12 years, the IMO’s Ballast Water Management Convention will eventually enter force on September 8th, 2017. At the moment this means that at least some 30,000 vessels will have to install a Ballast Water Treatment System (BWTS), and some estimates say this is closer to 60,000 vessels.

For shipowners and operators must have an approved system in place or do so within five years, or before their IOPP renewal survey. Therefore, vessels should gradually be up for a retrofit between September 8th, 2017 and September 8th, 2022. This means that all vessels should have a certified BWTS retrofitted by December 8th, 2022  – at the absolute latest!

One thing is certain; shipowners can no longer turn a blind eye to the enforcement of the Convention. Every vessel above 400 GT has to have a ballast water management plan on board by September 8, which has to be certified by Class. Non compliance will be considered an offence.

Wide-reaching consequences

Starting on that day, every vessel above 400 GT has to carry out ballast water exchange. If treatment or exchange are not possible, the responsible flag state can stop the discharge of ballast water by law.

“This has wide-reaching consequences: one tonne of ballast water not discharged is one tonne of cargo that can’t be carried,” says Damen Green Solutions product Portfolio Manager Matthijs Schuiten. “This could mean up to $5-25/tonne of income not realised, and this represents substantial sums when taking into account that the largest vessels have up to 200,000 tonnes of ballast water! The legal and financial impact on a shipowner is clear.”

Currently, many owners are having their IOPP certificate renewed early to maximise the time they have before having to retrofit the treatment installation. Given the number of vessels and these kinds of tactics, the retrofitting market and the BWTS manufacturers are expected to be extremely busy over the next few years.

Facing the challenge

But there are many owners who want to comply with the regulations at the soonest time, but who face a number of specific challenges.

Philip Rabe, responsible for InvaSave sales at Damen, says,

Consider barge operators. Their main issue is twofold. Given the September 8th deadline for ballast water exchange, this means refreshing the ballast water tanks three times while 200 nm offshore and in at least a 200 m water depth or in designated areas.

Many barges/pontoons never even go out this far, and even if they do, they will be prohibited from doing this kind of operation when loaded with heavy cargo by insurance/safety protocols. It is generally not allowed to have people on board these usually unmanned barges at sea, for safety reasons of course. This means that there is no one on board to activate the ballast water pumps. Additionally, many barges don’t even have their own ballast water pumps.

“For coastal vessels, which sail close to the shore, there are also potential problems. For example, if they are sailing from Vlissingen to Rotterdam they cannot do a BW exchange because of restrictions about where this is allowed as mentioned above,” he continues.

Therefore, the flagstate could require to treat the ballast water. In that case they must have access to a certified system. If not, they will be in breach of the regulations.

“Even if shipowners have installed a certified system promptly on time, this is still no guarantee that they won’t face problems. For example, especially as much of the technology in use will be new to the market, there is a risk of breakdown,” Philip states.

One study has indicated that up to 40% of systems installed had some kind of issue. This can be because of poor (mechanical) design, perhaps because of the inexperience of producers in this new market, or because the systems themselves shut down because the water is too dirty for them to effectively clean. For example, the sensor that is built into the UV-based systems figures out when the water gets too murky for the UV light to do its disinfecting work and automatically shuts down the system. But of course, this doesn’t help when arguing with authorities about why treatment hasn’t taken place.

“When a vessel gets dry docked, the ballast water from it can’t be simply pumped out because it could be contaminated. Therefore, a system needs to be in place,” explains Matthijs.

A suitable treatment system is also needed for ports, which may need to provide a backup in the case of emergencies when a ship’s on board treatment systems fail.

Mobile ballast water treatment system, BWT green solutions
The fact that the InvaSave is packaged in a standard 45-foot container with CSC safety approval, means it is highly mobile: in ports, on board (container) ships, or where ever else. The InvaSave can go where ever you need it to be.

Another group of owners who will face very real issues are those that operate older vessels. In reality, can an owner, who is only expecting to sail a certain vessel for another few years, really expend up to 2 to 3 million Euro for a new BWT system that offers no return on investment in the time the vessel has left?

And last but certainly not least, many shipowners simply won’t have the money to equip their vessels with a retrofit and will potentially try to ignore the impending regulation. Given the extremely tough market conditions at the moment in many sectors it is not surprising that a significant portion of owners won’t have the financial means to install a certified on board system. Costs can range anywhere from 200,000 Euro to as much as 3 million Euro!

One-step solution

Coupled with this, the BWTS that have been approved so far are always two-step systems. This means that water gets treated when taken in from the surface waters (sea), remains in the tanks for a few days (holding time, required by the certificate) and has to be treated again or neutralised when it is being discharged. The holding time particularly is a challenge for many operators.

With these varied and challenging factors in mind Damen has developed a cost-efficient, mobile BWTS – the InvaSave. This is currently the world’s only system that is certified to do the required disinfection in a single treatment step, making it very convenient and efficient.

Damen InvaSave external ballast water treatment system receives IMO type approval
Damen’s InvaSave team are proud to announce the IMO type approval of their innovative ballast water treatment solution. Read press-release about IMO type approval for Damen InvaSave

There is no required holding time in any tanks and no chemicals are used. Using this mobile treatment unit, owners and operators will be fully compliant with IMO regulations.

It can be employed from a lorry, from the deck of a barge or on the quay. It is completely self-sufficient and can be monitored remotely via Internet.

The InvaSave system is fully containerised and self-sufficient. Each container has a capacity of 300 m3/h. The container can be put on a trailer or several can be placed on a dedicated treatment barge, pontoon or vessel.  As it is possible to interconnect systems it’s easy to scale up treatment capacity if required.

The technology is also very simple to use – essentially it is a plug & play system. Vessels only need to have a deck connection. The InvaSave can treat ballast water from a vessel or supply clean ballast water to a vessel. And because it’s modular it is easy to increase capacity. For vessels with much larger ballast water tanks, multiple InvaSave units can be used in parallel to reach the capacity required.

Ballast Water treatment, port BWT solutions, green BWT
Up to 80 kW of UV-light are part of the InvaSave’s success story. In the above image, a close-up of its UV-reactor illustrates this power. It is the same technology trusted to disinfect drinking water for billions of people around the globe. The lamps have a very high lifespan and are easily replaceable by a single person, even without tools.

Damen believes this simple and effective solution is ideal, particularly for those sectors which may be perturbed by the costs of the two-step systems that have been certified so far, and for those worried they are not going to make the impending September 8th deadline!

The prototype InvaSave 300 was designed for the Wadden Sea National Park in the Netherlands, which is a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site. Damen teamed up with Groningen Seaports Authority to develop the mobile treatment reception vessel to keep alien species out of the Wadden Sea. Other partners include the Dutch marine research institutes Imares/Wageningen Marine Research & MEA-NL, Wagenborg and Mariflex, Waddenfonds.

prototype InvaSave 300 was designed for the Wadden Sea National Park
On April 25th Damen’s award-winning and IMO certified InvaSave ballast water management system (BWMS) received its world premiere in front of an invited audience courtesy of Groningen Seaports at the harbour of Delfzijl and Eemshaven, The Netherlands. Read press-release

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