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Ballast Water Treatment for the Long Haul

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By Alfa Laval 12-08-2019 09:52:00

Shipowners know that long-term service is an essential consideration for selecting any vessel equipment, and ballast water treatment systems are no exception. Now that the IMO Ballast Water Management Convention is entering the enforcement phase, the importance of service is becoming even clearer. Even the best-engineered systems eventually need maintenance, and some suppliers are better positioned than others to supply spare parts and service quickly.

Alfa Laval's PureBallast system is known for its low 2.5 hour holding time (zero hours outside of the U.S.) and its flexibility for installation, but it comes with another important feature: Alfa Laval's growing service network. The company has been building out its customer service infrastructure with the goal of providing next-port-call support, and it has 130 trained service engineers dedicated solely to PureBallast at ports around the world. 

"We have established three service hub locations with call centers in Singapore, Rotterdam and Houston, which allows us to provide follow-the-sun service. On any day of the year, at any time, we have employees in these service locations managing customer inquiries," says Peter Sahlen, head of PureBallast at Alfa Laval. "We work with the vessel as it is moving to make sure that we can provide support in the next available harbor."

PureBallast field service engineers train at the same facilities that Alfa Laval uses to train vessel crews. The company now has training centers in Manila, Singapore, Mumbai, Stockholm, Houston and Istanbul, and it is looking at the possibility of opening another in China. These centers all have real PureBallast equipment so that service technicians (and customers' marine engineers) can access real-life, hands-on training. In addition to Alfa Laval's own centers, number-two ocean carrier MSC - an Alfa Laval customer - has in-sourced its own PureBallast crew training by buying two full-scale hardware simulators.

Remote troubleshooting

Alfa Laval has a comprehensive fleet-wide retrofit agreement with MSC, which has installed about 50 PureBallast 3 systems to date. When it comes to after-care, MSC retrofitting manager Luigi Russo says that Alfa Laval's service team can resolve many technical issues remotely by working with the vessel's crew.  “If a vessel informs us of an issue, we forward the message to Alfa Laval and discuss it,” he says. "Generally, we can solve the problem without going on board, simply by adjusting some parameters. They are sure of their technology and know exactly what they are doing.”

For a growing number of PureBallast-equipped vessels, digitalization is accelerating this remote-troubleshooting process. "With a digital connection to onboard equipment, both the customer's headquarters team and Alfa Laval can assist with remote service. We can advise the crew on board on how they should correct an issue and then then check to make sure that the problem was fixed," says Sahlen. "We have about 25 vessels connected now, with more on the way."

In addition to regular maintenance and troubleshooting, Alfa Laval's service engineers are helping existing customers to make the most of their systems - including lowering the required holding time. In April, the USCG reduced the PureBallast system's minimum post-treatment holding time to just 2.5 hours. The reduction puts PureBallast on a very competitive footing relative to electrochlorination-based systems and to other UV-based technologies. For legacy customers who call at U.S. ports, Alfa Laval can update the existing systems to meet the new lower hold time limitation.

Long-term peace of mind

Alfa Laval offers shipowners peace of mind for the long haul, not just for day-to-day operations. The company offers an optional, tailored performance agreement for the PureBallast system, guaranteeing that consumables, scheduled maintenance and repairs come at a set cost for a five- or ten-year period. MSC has taken advantage of this offer for its fleet in order to ensure predictable costs for water analysis, spare parts and service. “With a performance agreement, we can include all of these things and secure access to service all over the world under the same conditions,” says Russo.

Long-term, cradle-to-grave support is an important consideration for shipowners because a ballast water treatment system will likely last the life of a vessel. If the OEM should cease operation - and many are expected to in the years ahead - its installed systems will be difficult or impossible to maintain. As the most established ballast water treatment vendor in the market, and a diversified firm with multiple income streams, Alfa Laval is well-positioned to deliver for decades to come.

"For all our customers, it is important to be confident that they will get service in the future," says Sahlen. "They see the value of choosing a supplier who will be there for the long term, taking care of each vessel throughout its lifetime."

This editorial is sponsored by Alfa Laval.

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