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Tired of Talking Green: Is Port-Based Ballast Water Treatment Just A Dream?

By Wendy Laursen 11-19-2012 08:48:00

By Wendy Laursen

Discussing maritime technology without the marketing clichés.

Despite pending regulations, most shipowners have refused to commit to an onboard ballast water treatment system. Yet port-based treatment has the potential to be a temporary or even permanent solution.

The EPA’s Science Advisory Board concluded that the potential advantages of reception facilities over shipboard treatment systems include (1) fewer reception facilities than shipboard systems would be needed, (2) smaller total treatment capacity would be needed, and (3) reception facilities would be subject to fewer physical constraints. They could therefore use more effective technologies such as those used in water treatment.

For the moment, port solutions appear to be no more than a dream, not least because port reception facilities are unavailable and because additional layup time would be required, says Dino Cervetto, head of technical services at classification society RINA.

For Birgir Nilsen, VP of business development at treatment system supplier Optimarin, the scope also seems limited even though the company believes around 95 percent of ships have yet to have a system ordered for them: “If one ship trades between two ports and the port has relatively low traffic, a facility could be set up to receive and treat the ballast water. Otherwise, I think it is a dream. Logistics would be a nightmare,” he says.

Prototype Systems

Without specific vessel modifications, logistics can indeed be challenging. The Glosten Associates, in cooperation with the U.S. Geological Survey, is involved with the development of a prototype chemical metering and tank-mixing system for emergency treatment. The device consists of a dosing skid for chemical delivery and a submersible, nozzle-fitted pump for in-tank mixing. It has been tested on board California Maritime Academy’s training ship, Golden Bear, after proof-of-concept testing was completed on American Steamship Company’s Great Lakes bulk carrier Indiana Harbor. Once the equipment is brought on board, trials indicate that the treatment process would take 24 to 48 hours, and it is envisaged that a team of four to six people would be needed to treat an entire ship.

However, Kevin Reynolds, senior associate of The Glosten Associates, is positive about the system’s potential. “We think that there is a broad market for such a system including emergency treatment, interim treatment until a permanent system can be installed on board, and use on vessels that only periodically discharge limited amounts of ballast water.” The Glosten Associates has already produced an emergency treatment guide, which has been issued by the U.S. National Park Service and is also suitable for when port state control finds vessels with untreated ballast water.

Demonstrating another shore-based application, Hyde Marine’s treatment system was used with the relocation of the barge Lucky Angel back in 2009. The tanks, laden with sediment, took approximately two weeks to disinfect using a shore-based, containerized treatment system, but the solution was considered safer than ballast water exchange at sea.

Cofely West Industrie of The Netherlands is developing a barge-based port solution that could be used routinely, and product manager Martijn Meijer outlines the challenges: “There are three major issues that need to be addressed. You need a treatment unit that is modified specifically for this task. You need a means of control: How else would you know that the ballast water is clean enough to be pumped into the harbor? You also need a universal connection, applicable to every ship, so that the barge and ship can connect and the ballast water can be pumped into the barge.”

Meijer sees a market for such a system after pending legislation comes into effect because it will be impossible for some ships to comply. “Think of fishing vessels and smaller seagoing vessels. Another market could be large container vessels. They sail a standard route and usually know when they are arriving in port. For them, it could be financially lucrative to make use of a port solution instead of installing a ballast water treatment unit on board.”

Meijer believes that to make such a system work will take cooperation among port authorities, a port service provider, a treatment system manufacturer; a technical service provider, institutes with specialized knowledge of bacteria treatment, shipowners and classification societies. His company is organizing the formation of such a group.

If you would like to propose viewpoints or topics for future articles, please contact Wendy Laursen: wlaursen@bigpond.com

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