With the wave of ballast water management system (BWMS) installations due over the coming months creating a potential log-jam among yards and suppliers, industry stakeholders convened to look at solutions to the bottleneck dilemma
With regulatory deadlines looming and yards struggling to cope with demand for BWMS installations even before the Covid-19 pandemic struck, bottlenecks were always a likely occurrence. The current pandemic has only exacerbated that problem.
Discussing the issue at a recent Riviera Maritime Media webinar, ’Overcoming bottlenecks on BWMS retrofit installation and operation’, sponsored by De Nora Water Technologies, the conversation quickly turned to the sheer number of vessels requiring BWMS installations in the next couple of years. “We have a huge uptake of BWMS due for retrofit by 2022,” explained Mouawad Consulting chief executive Jad Mouawad, adding, “This is a certificate-based date and the reason we have this is it’s a renewal date of an IOPP certificate. If we go back five years when it was renewed in 2017, this was the date when IMO decided to postpone the implementation of the D2 standard on ships up to 2019. So we had a huge number of ships decoupling their certificates just prior to September 2017, which is why we are where we now are.”
“In rushing to meet installation dates, due diligence may be sacrificed”
Mr Mouawad pointed out however, that ships do not dock just to renew their IOPP certificate; he expects drydockings to continue as usual and the installation curve to flatten somewhat. He anticipates the uptake of systems will be fairly consistent up to 2023 before “more or less disappearing by 2024”, after which he anticipates only newbuildings, “of around 2,000 ships per year”.
If this is the case, the bottleneck dilemma may well fail to materialise. Still, Mr Mouawad stressed that with numerous systems coming to the maritime sector in a short space of time, there will be an inevitable “ripple effect” on spare parts and maintenance. He also expressed concern that in rushing to meet installation dates, due diligence may be sacrificed. “I’m afraid we might end up with a large number of systems either not working or not operating properly. In which case we will have to wait until the next phase of renewals in 2029 before we address that.”
INTERTANKO environment director Tim Wilkins noted the amount of enquiries from his members related to the new ballast water management system code, and said with concern that “our members are still having problems with installed systems.”
He agreed that rushing through retrofits may result in problems further down the line and stressed the importance of commissioning testing to ensure systems are robust and compliant and provide confidence to the owner.
Mr Wilkins also noted that as most stakeholders are currently in the experience-building phase, there was still time to iron out complications and to influence the direction of the Convention and other regulatory requirement. “Our concern now, is that a pragmatic approach is reflected by the Port State Authorities as delays in the system occur,” he said.
The Covid-19 conundrum
Moving on to the subject of retrofits, 21 Knots naval architect and chief executive Nitesh Ranvah explained that, like a jigsaw puzzle, any such project will have multiple stakeholders that need to be brought together, preferably in the correct order. “There is the shipowner, who plans the retrofit, finalises the OEM and the shipyards and prepares the vessel and finances; a shipyard, which has to arrange for a docking slot and plan its labour and fabrication requirements; the OEM, which must supply the equipment and provide after-sales service; and lastly, a commissioning team which is going to carry out all the tests and trials.”
He explained that the organisation involved would be a sizable challenge in normal circumstances, but has been made far harder due to the current restrictions stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic.
By way of example, he cited the recent incidence of a vessel approaching a yard in Turkey that had to be quarantined for 14 days before it could land. This places a huge strain on predetermined deadlines, especially as the current quarantine situation is evolving almost daily.
“Please don’t underestimate the importance of the installation commissioning and associated manuals”
Elsewhere, he pointed to work halting at a major Singaporean yard due to Covid-19 for almost a month. In that time said Mr Ranvah, “No work has taken place on the ships in that yard.”
The OEMs too are facing a similar situation, he explained, having to increase lead times beyond six to eight months, resulting in dockings being cancelled because the OEMs have been unable to deliver on time.
“As a shipowner,” said Mr Ranvah, “you want to minimise your yard stay at the moment, and you crews’ interaction with external parties.”
As a solution, Mr Ranvah highlighted the importance of onboard installations and new technologies, such as 3D scanning and printing, which allow onboard installations to take place more quickly and simply. “An onboard installation is not limited to a yard schedule; it offers far greater flexibility and you can carry out the various stages of an installation depending on your trading pattern,” he explained.
The importance of logistics
As a market leader in ballast water systems, De Nora Water Technologies regional sales manager EMEA, Dimitrios Tsoulos is well placed to elaborate on the challenges and solutions facing the sector. Acknowledging the subject has been a “headache for the industry” for a number of years, he explained that the maritime world now finds itself in a critical moment, with its options limited by regulatory and social demands.
As such, logistics management becomes key. Mr Tsoulos explained that proper planning, having the correct documents in place, overseen by knowledgeable planners and implemented by experienced partners, was critical to avoiding the kind of bottlenecks the industry fears. “The timely submittal of front-end engineering plans saves valuable time among partners who may not be water experts,” he said. “Please don’t underestimate the importance of the installation commissioning and associated manuals. Those documents are very important, not only for work guidelines and planning, but also to address regulatory compliance issues.”
Mr Tsoulos also flagged up the need for adequate training, which he said should be addressed as a core deliverable, with its scope managed as a high priority item within a retrofit project.
He noted too how delays can stem from items with long lead times, such as valves, and how transport should not be overlooked at the planning stage to avoid associated bottlenecks.
Finally, he turned to the planning of installation supervision and commissioning services, where Mr Tsoulos explained that the BWMS, as a contractual item, cannot be delivered without approval on board. “The maker must confirm availability and maintain an organisational structure that ensures the services are on time and meet a quality that will allow at least class approval.”
He noted that even during this difficult period, responsibility fell on the manufacturer to maintain an infrastructure that allows those involved to overcome such challenges as may arise.
Watch the ’Overcoming bottlenecks on BWMS retrofit installation and operation’ webinar in our webinar library