The ballast water management systems market is more competitive than ever, while the approval process required is stifling product development
Type-approvals required in the US and by IMO for ballast water management systems (BWMSs) discourages innovation and improvement, said a leading BWMS manufacturer.
Hyde Marine executive director Chris Todd told Container Shipping & Trade “We have to go through all painstaking testing work to get equipment type-approved and once it has been approved, a manufacturer cannot make modifications and improvements without another round of expensive testing, therefore this discourages innovation and improvement as the testing process is so long and expensive.”
He said that on average the full test process cost US$4M for the two-year process. “Innovation is discouraged because if you spend US$4M to get the solution approved, you do not want to spend that again.”
Hyde Marine has been outspoken about this issue within the market, but Mr Todd said that there was not much manufacturers could do to make any changes to the process. But one thing that would lead to “positive change” is for shipowners, once they have installed a BWMS, to call for improvements further down the line.
Hyde Marine is currently retesting its system to receive US Coast Guard (USCG) type-approval after its request that its Most Probable Number (MPN) technique – used by a number of UV-based system manufacturers – was rejected by the USCG as an alternative test method. The USCG requires organisms to be killed and to confirm whether their systems comply but in December 2015 the USCG decided that MPN is not an acceptable testing method because it believes that it does not measure the efficacy of a BWMS to kill organisms.
“Innovation is discouraged because if you spend US$4M to get the solution approved, you do not want to spend that again.” Chris Todd, Hyde Marine
In order to reach compliance, Hyde Marine is increasing its system’s UV dose capability by using larger UV lamps. Testing is expected to finish in Q3 this year and the technology will then be submitted for approval at the end of 2018.
Mr Todd pointed out that a benefit of being later in the type-approval process has meant that Hyde has been able to tweak its system and carry out improvements. An example is that it has added a flow-limiting valve that limits UV flow and ensures that it will not exceed type-approval requirements.
Asked if the company would keep selling its older BWMS once it gained type-approval, he said that the company would “let the market decide”. He pointed out an obstacle to this: shipowners say that they want USCG type-approved systems but he believes some shipowners “do not understand the implications for UV technology; they need a higher UV dose to meet the type-approval, which means higher power consumption.” Hyde has been trying to communicate this to the market “for a long time”, he said.
He highlighted how cargo-carrying ships, including container vessels, had been slower to install BWMSs than other ship sectors. Although Hyde Marine has installed BWMSs on 23 box ships, he said the company “has not seen much activity there because IMO implementation has been delayed for two more years, so there is nothing driving these shipowners.”
Frustration at delay
Meanwhile, IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) decision last July to delay installation dates for ballast water management systems by another two years has been met with frustration by BWMS manufacturers. Evoqua Water Technologies global vice-president, electrocatalytic business, Ian Stentiford told Container Shipping & Trade “There is some disappointment across the industry. The regulation is there because there is an environmental problem and the delay by two years will not help this.
“It is important that we stick to the new date, so that everyone can get on with meeting the new requirements.”
The delay decreed by MEPC means that there is not much business, if any, in the retrofit market, Mr Stentiford said. However, he expects this business to pick up by about the middle of this year.
He said that the BWMS market was very competitive, with especially fierce competition in China, Korea and Japan. To this end, Evoqua has focused on making its treatment system smaller and cost less; since it launched in 2014, Mr Stentiford said its next generation had become 76% smaller and 85% lighter.
This will be a skid-mounted, plug-in-and-play ballast water treatment system that uses the same approved electrochlorination technology, as previous models. Evoqua has remodelled its SeaCURE BWMS to provide what it believes is optimum high flow rate performance from what it says is now one of the smallest electrochlorination systems on the market.
To achieve this, the company has reduced the number of components to create a modular system that can be mounted on a 2m x 1.5m skid, making it one the of smallest BWMSs available capable of treating flow rates of up to 6,000 m3/h.
Evoqua has finished two years of biological efficacy tests needed before submitting its US Coast Guard (USCG) type-approval application for its SeaCure BWMS. It is hoping to receive this before the end of the year. The shipboard testing was carried out on Seaspan-owned COSCO Fortune container ship.
‘Game-changer’ five-year guarantee
As the various deadlines for compliance with IMO’s Ballast Water Management Convention get nearer, the market for ballast water management systems (BWMSs) is becoming more and more competitive. This was dramatically demonstrated in September 2017, when Norwegian ballast water management system manufacturer OceanSaver filed for bankruptcy. Many believe it will not be the last to do so.
In such an environment, what the industry needs is ‘a gamechanger’ according to BWMS manufacturer Optimarin chief executive officer Tore Andersen. He believes his company has now delivered it, in the form of the Norwegian company becoming the first manufacturer to offer a five-year parts and servicing guarantee.
“We thought it was time to demonstrate our long-term faith in our system and absolute commitment to this segment,” Mr Andersen explained. “No other manufacturer offers a guarantee of this nature, but we can. So if a shipowner signs a framework agreement with Optimarin for installation on multiple vessels, we will provide them with a five-year contract that covers all parts and servicing, worldwide. This is our promise of reliable, safe and effective operations, and, with our total regulatory compliance, complete peace of mind.”
The impetus for this move came from an ABS report that suggested that only 57% of systems currently installed on the vessels of operators surveyed were being operated and that the remaining systems were either deemed inoperable or considered problematic.
“We found this an extremely sad rumour for our industry to have,” said Mr Andersen. “More to the point, it’s ammunition for everyone in the industry to delay uptake and, as a maker we obviously don’t like that. So with this system that we know works, we’re seeking to take that burden of worry from the owner on to ourselves.”
Mr Andersen hopes this move will force competitors into a situation where they have to do the same, because “that’s part of the game. I would expect to see the big makers follow suit. But those makers with limited experience won’t dare to do this,” he told Container Shipping & Trade.
Mr Andersen was emphatic about the need to change shipowners’ attitudes towards ballast water management systems, which he appreciates are a grudge purchase about which there are still numerous suspicions. He said: “What I want to ensure is that when a shipowner buys one of these systems from a maker, they’re sure it will work. Because we need to change the game. Up until now, shipowners have hardly used the systems. They don’t want to, because there’s been no impetus to do it. But now if you have a system on board, you have to use it.
Ports move closer to compliance
Sovereign states and their port authorities are taking clear steps towards ensuring compliance with International Maritime Organization (IMO) regulations for ballast water. Although IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) decided last July to delay installation dates for ballast water management systems by another two years, compliance with the convention’s D-1 standard – achieved by carrying out ballast water exchange – was not affected.
Because of this, Chelsea Technologies Group (CTG) managing director Brian Phillips warned “The floodgates are opening. Regardless of IMO’s delay, concerned parties, including port authorities, around the world are stating that it is a good thing to get on and test ballast water for compliance.”
The UK-based company, which manufactures ballast water testing kits, has over 50 years' experience monitoring phytoplankton and the ocean and responded to a call from the US Coast Guard to develop a method for measuring very low concentrations of phytoplankton cells to test if ballast water management systems on board ships are working effectively.
As a result, CTG’s FastBallast Compliance Monitor was developed and is able to determine the phytoplankton cell density of ballast water at the IMO D-2 discharge standard (10 to 50 µm range) that is defined for treatment systems.
The kit can be used on board to test compliance and is said to have accuracy rivalling sample analysis in a shore-based laboratory.
From August 2017 all ships calling at Saudi Aramco ports are required to provide ballast water samples for test and it has selected some portable testing equipment to check those samples. Among them is FastBallast, which CTG has said is being used as the benchmark monitoring device and to conduct spot checks on indicative sampling undertaken by third-party sampling companies.
Other countries, including China and the USA, are currently evaluating FastBallast for possible inclusion in future programmes of ballast water compliance testing.
Dr Phillips added “There could be a huge impact for shipowners if many other countries follow Saudi Aramco’s lead and instigate a ballast water compliance testing programme.”
He summed up “Sovereign states are taking a stance that even though IMO are granting extra time, they wish to know now that ballast water discharge in their regions is safe. Speaking as an environmentalist, this can only be a good thing. It’s a wake-up call for shipping globally.”