Crew training, delays to retrofit installation due to Covid-19, filter clogging and keeping on top of regulatory bureaucracy are just a selection of the ballast water operational issues owners and operators are reporting. This webinar will examine the workable solutions
In the Resolving key ballast water operational issues for owners and operators webinar, three panellists provided their expertise on the ballast water treatment operational issues that are keeping owners and operators awake at night.
Providing guidance on the claims stemming from operational issues was West P&I club global head of loss prevention Simon Hodgkinson. Having visited hundreds of ships to assess, install and resolve ballast water treatment systems, Mouawad Consulting chief executive Jad Mouawad was on board to give a view from below deck and ABS senior principal engineer William Burroughs was available to detail the classification society’s work in the area.
Captain Hodgkinson said, “We are there to support our members, to assist and protect their interests during these incidents.” If the incident is due to an honest mistake, such as discharging untreated or partly treated ballast water due to an unknown failure of the ballast water treatment system, there is cover from the P&I club for any fines.
“If the vessel arrives with a malfunctioning ballast water treatment system and there is no attempt to inform the captain, the port or perform a ballast water exchange and the ballast water logbook is filled in incorrectly – this is outside the area of (P&I) cover,” said Capt Hodgkinson.
Testing is the next issue on the horizon for P&I clubs. It is important for shipowners to show that the BWMS was maintained and operated as per instructions and testing will provide the evidence. How soon will ballast water testing in port become commonplace? In a survey, nearly half thought it would be within two years, with the full results: one year 14%, two years 47%, three years 20%, four years 12%, five years 7%.
Another main operational concern highlighted by Capt Hodgkinson was paperwork. “Ensure the ballast water plan is up to date, and specific to the vessel,” he said. “We have seen plans which do not have the correct ship’s name.”
Port state control will not look kindly on a vessel that has been granted an exemption and has allowed this to lapse. “Shipowners and operators must ensure an exemption granted for US waters is still valid when the vessel returns there,” he said. He emphasised not to overlook paperwork and that crew must be trained to respect the requirement to log ballast water activity.
Training is still a big problem. In a survey, 82% replied that crews did not receive adequate training on the use of ballast water systems, with only 18% believing training was adequate.
What is the scale of operational issues? The situation seems better than many feared, but that 40% of respondents to a survey felt that ballast water treatment systems were not reliable enough for constant use is worrying. 60% felt the ballast water treatment systems were reliable for constant use.
Mr Mouawad provided some insight into the operational issues he is seeing with UV-based systems, non-UV systems and general issues. “The main challenge we have seen is low water quality,” said Mr Mouawad, referring to UV-based systems, “mainly transmittance and fouling of lamps.”
Another issue is damage to the UV lamps themselves. Vibration is one cause, and he noted this can be fixed by correcting the installation and the pipes.
He has observed that on larger vessels, the higher flow rates required are creating new issues. “It is important to take care of how the flow is controlled. The forces on the pipes and the valves, the lamps and the joints become too large,” he said and clever engineering is required to mitigate these forces. He suggests a variable frequency drive to control the pump motors when fitting a UV unit on to larger dry bulk carrier or tankers. He also observed that preventative maintenance needs to be addressed, such as cleaning the lamps and having adequate spare lamps.
His other main observation was total residual oxidant (TRO) meters, which was one of the subjects of the Learning from BWMS implementation: where do we go from here? webinar. “In our (Mouawad Consulting) experience, we seldom find a ship that has all the colorimetric TRO meters (port, starboard, aft) working,” he said.
Colorimetric TRO meter issues include the crew has not changed or added reagent (inaccurate reading) and unreliable sampling with ozone and hydrogen sensors, often not correctly calibrated. He said the alternatives, amperometric and ORP meters have a good operational record but are not yet widespread.
Finally, an adequate spare parts network covering the main shipping hubs of Singapore, Rotterdam and Houston is a minimum requirement, said Mr Mouawad.
Mr Burroughs noted that ABS has been involved in ballast water treatment as an expert body for decades and was the first to publish a guide (BWT Guide Nov 2011), which has been continuously improved ever since. “When we find something interesting, we want to share that with our members and the stakeholders,” he said.
On the ballast water treatment system engineering side, ABS offers a service where the engineering of the system can be assessed before installation. “That gives you a heads-up on what the class society is going to expect when you submit your engineering documents,” he said. ABS also issues BWM Code type-approval and is a Recognised Organisation by flags and administrations.
Mr Burroughs provided an update on the developments taking place with shore-based ballast water reception facilities. He noted that shore-based reception facilities were considered from the start of the ballast water treatment engagement and are built into the BWM Convention through the G5 guidelines.
In US waters, there are provisions for shore-based ballast water treatment in EPA’s Vessel General Permit and VIDA. “In America, it is required to have a permit from each individual state where there is an intention to discharge overboard after the treatment. We (ABS) are aware of permits being applied for,” he said, noting that this will be a new sub-industry of ballast water treatment.
How will this work? There will be some conversion work required to connect to a shore-based reception facility. “It will also be a dynamic head challenge for the existing ballast water pumps on the vessel,” he said.
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From left to right: ABS senior principal engineer William Burroughs, Mouawad Consulting chief executive Jad Mouawad, and West P&I club global head of loss prevention Simon Hodgkinson