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Ballast Water Management: Time for a New Generation

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By Wendy Laursen 2016-02-10 19:25:43

The IMO has confirmed that conditions have not yet been met for the Ballast Water Management Convention to enter into force, giving shipowners, equipment manufacturers and engineering service providers time to embrace what are now considered as third generation technological solutions. Will there be time to consider a fourth generation?  

“The third generation of systems are being tested for U.S. Coast Guard approval at this moment,” says ballast water management consultant Jad Mouawad. “However, a fourth generation of UV-based treatment systems are now being forced to be developed. This is due to the new ruling by the U.S. Coast Guard not to accept the most probably number method as a valid method for evaluation of efficacy under Coast Guard Regulations.

“To add to the generation trend, we have the new ruling against the U.S. EPA whereby they are required to look into a more stringent standard than the IMO D-2 standard that they adopted. If this is not handled properly, we will end up with yet another generation of systems trying to meet this more stringent standard that no one yet knows anything about.”

Installation Errors

Mouawad says that there are a large but unknown number of systems that have been installed on board ships incorrectly. “We can make as many generations as we want, but if we don’t manage to install them correctly and then operate them correctly, nothing will help.

“For us at Mouawad Consulting, this is the single area in our services that is increasing dramatically. Many shipyards, many designers are making mistakes during installation and shipowners are calling us to inspect, identify and correct mistakes. 

“When even the best shipyards and well-known engineering firms cannot install a treatment system properly, how can we expect the industry to meet the deadlines of the Convention and really do ballast water management, not just on paper?”

Day-to-Day Operations

Invasive species consultant Dr Robert Hilliard of Intermarine Consulting agrees many of the already type approved systems are now essentially third generation technology. “Most will continue to get tweaked and provided with improved control, self-monitoring, auto-reporting features etc. However, until the various types of treatment start getting regular ship-board use, it's difficult to predict which will prove the most reliable and cost-efficient regarding day-to-day performance and maintenance needs.  

“For the UV systems, I expect relatively few will get fitted to the smaller ships that must deliver containers, break-bulk, scrap, timber, chemicals, veg. oil, fuel, cement or asphalt in the silt-laden berth pockets of shallow estuaries, where navigation is restricted to the high tide. These could face transmittance losses below 45 percent from sucking high levels of suspended silts, clays and colloidal organics whenever a full cargo is delivered. 

“Avoiding this by restricting ballasting to the clearer high tide period could delay unloading and/or the departure time. Ships must be ready to depart on the high tide in order to escape the berth pocket and approach channel, but with sufficient ballast on board to provide a sufficiently level trim with at least 90 percent or 95 percent of the propeller immersed, depending on the port's rules.”

A Case in Point

Equipment manufacturers continue to announce their success in developing their technologies and winning new orders. Cathelco’s announcement this week of an order for a new offshore vessel built by Eastern Shipbuilding Group for Harvey Gulf International Marine, provides an example of the growing sophistication of UV systems.

The Cathelco system is based on a combination of filtration and UV technology and has a capacity of 150m3/hr. It received IMO Type Approval in May 2014 and went on to gain AMS Acceptance from the U.S. Coast Guard a few months later.

“We are one of the few ballast water treatment system manufacturers using UV technology that has no restrictions on the salinities in which ships can operate in U.S. waters. Our system has been approved and accepted to work in marine, brackish and fresh water, allowing vessels to enter the Great Lakes and other inland waterways,” says Peter Smith, sales director of Cathelco.

As one of the new generation of systems, it can operate effectively in the most challenging water conditions, he says. The AMS approval recognizes that the system will continue to disinfect heavily silted seawater where UV light transmittance values are as low as 45 percent (75 percent being the value for normal seawater.)

“All of these factors, combined with the stringent IMO test procedures, demonstrate our commitment to future proofing the system, so that owners can have confidence in their ballast water treatment system selection,” Smith says.

Cathelco’s systems are available with capacities from 34m3/hr to 1,200m3/hr in a single unit. In order to maintain its effectiveness, the system automatically adjusts to different sea water qualities. Unlike some systems which simply measure turbidity (amount of suspended sediment), the Cathelco system uses a UVT sensor to measure UV light transmittance – the amount of UV radiation actually passing through the seawater. The company says this is a far more reliable parameter for calculating the UV dose as well as ensuring that power is used economically. Another important factor is the use of stepless power control, again ensuring that power is used as economically as possible.

The UV chambers are some of the smallest on the market. Each unit is a twin chamber with only two lamps (100m3/hr per lamp) and is designed to make the sea water flow along one side and then the other – doubling UV exposure. In addition, the manifolds make the water flow in a helix, ensuring that the maximum surface area is exposed to the UV light source.

A cleaning system using special cleaning balls is used to remove residue from the quartz sleeves and internal surfaces of the chamber. This means that the system does not use chemicals, and there are no mechanical parts to scratch the surface of the sleeves.

In the Market from the Beginning

Despite the generational turnover in technology, some manufacturers have maintained their place in the market from the early days. One such company is Ecochlor. The company announced this week that SCF Novoship Technical Management has selected its system to be retrofitted on three Aframax oil tankers and one product carrier. 

“SCF Novoship Technical Management required a ballast water treatment system that is highly effectively in extreme climate conditions,” explained Tom Perlich, president and founder of Ecochlor, “has low power consumption and is nearing completion of the U.S. Type Approval process. The Ecochlor ballast water treatment system met all of these requirements.”

The Ecochlor ballast water treatment system uses a two-step process to treat ballast water – filtration followed by disinfection with the biocide chlorine dioxide. The system’s effectiveness is not impaired by variations in salinity, temperature, turbidity, organics and vibration, which can impact other treatment options, says Perlich. Furthermore, the small size, low power, and low maintenance characteristics of the Ecochlor system make it ideally suited for installation on the world’s largest ships.

Vertical Offerings

The engineering management services offered to shipowners continues to develop alongside the treatment systems. This week, Choice Ballast Solutions announced a strategic alliance with Drew Marine to provide vertically integrated capabilities. Choice handles the application, installation and project management of all types of ballast water treatment systems for both newbuild and retrofit vessels.

To demonstrate the alliance, the two firms have joined to form, “Choice Alliance” which will provide shipowners with ballast water treatment system compliance planning, integration engineering, project management, fabrication, installation, compliance assessment and services. Also, Choice Alliance will develop additional resources as sub-contractors to support these activities.

More Tonnage Required

Despite the technological and service developments of an industry now over a decade old, shipowners continue to face the regulatory uncertainty that has plagued the Ballast Water Management Convention from the start. Forty-seven countries have now ratified the Convention, substantially more than the 30 required, but their combined fleets comprise 34.35 per cent of global tonnage, just under the 35 per cent required for entry into force.

Many in the industry expect 2016 to be the year that the tonnage requirements will be met, but many people have been saying that now for years.

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.