When scheduling a ballast water management system retrofit installation in the past year, more time has been needed in drydock with Covid-19 restrictions and shipowners combining both BWMS and scrubber retrofits putting a strain on overburdened shipyard manpower
Mouawad Consulting chief executive Jad Mouawad has vast experience conducting ballast water management system (BWMS) retrofit installations and his firm has issued type-approval certificates for more than 11 ballast water management systems.
His firm also initiated the development of the first DNV GL rules for installing ballast water management systems on board ships. Speaking at Riviera Maritime Media’s ‘Overcoming bottlenecks on BWMS retrofit installation and operation’ webinar, he shared a slide showing the expected number of ballast water management system retrofit installations based on the vessels’ IOPP renewal dates peaking in the next few years. “We had a huge number of ships decoupling the IOPP certificate just prior to 2017, which has resulted in the peak.” However, he expects vessels will continue to follow their original drydocking schedule. “We expect the curve to be flatter,” he said.
Mr Mouawad felt the challenge might reduce if shipowners and operators do not book retrofit installations specifically on the date of the IOPP certificate date but align the work with the drydocking before the date. “We see the uptake of systems will be about equal next year (2021) and in 2022 and 2023. The uptake will then reduce or disappear by 2024,” he said. From then the emphasis will be on newbuildings, which he estimates to be around 2,000 units per year. “Hopefully, we will have less of a bottleneck than feared.”
If the emerging macro picture indicates the worst of the bottleneck will be avoided, it also raises another issue: mass non-compliance. “If there is a rush to install systems and due diligence is not followed, there is the fear there will be a large number of poorly installed systems,” said Mr Mouawad.
The bottleneck relating to the Covid-19 situation was described by 21 Knots chief executive and naval architect Nitesh Ranvah. 21 Knots is an engineering firm engaged in numerous retrofit installations around the world. Mr Ranvah has direct experience of how ballast water installations are taking place in the shipyards. The high demand for BWMS retrofit installations, coupled with the Covid-19 coronavirus effect has impacted planning, noted Mr Ranvah. He listed the elements creating the bottlenecks as: access to yards and yard labour, original equipment manufacturer equipment delays, and the Covid-19 coronavirus risk to crews from yard personnel. Although the lockdown is easing in some parts of the world, there is still a lot of suspicion surrounding the Covid-19 coronavirus. Mr Ranvah cited the example of a vessel held in quarantine for 14 days before it could enter the shipyard in Turkey.
Despite this, in a poll conducted among those attending the webinar, 36% listed Europe as the preferred geography for BWMS installation going forward. Somewhat surprisingly, given the challenges it involves, on-voyage installation was the choice of nearly a third of those taking part in the webinar (32%). China and southeast Asia was the installation location of choice for 28% of the respondents, with the remainder (4%) choosing the Middle East.
The on-voyage installation option comes with challenges including the cost of the riding crew to work on the installation, gaining class approval and the impact on the working ship while the installation takes place. It is easy to forget to take an essential part on board or to have one damaged. Irreplaceable at sea, the installation could be delayed until the next port call.
In a poll, webinar attendees ranked the on-voyage installation challenges. 49% cited limited resources to tackle unplanned situations, 18% said higher costs, another 18% said skilled manpower availability and 15% opted for safety/HSE concerns.
In a poll on the most efficient way to tackle bottleneck, a third (33%) chose increased capacity outside China and 29% chose extending the deadlines. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the most probable, most attendees (42%) chose option 4, that extended deadlines were likely.
Mr Ranvah also warned shipowners and operators not to rely on the concept of sister ships: that one set of plans and 3D scans will fit all. In his experience, a pair of vessels built in the same dock can have significant differences in the machinery space. Onboard assessment and 3D scanning is essential on a ship-by-ship basis to avoid engineering issues months later.
Ballast water treatment system supplier Ecochlor technical manager Tyler Harvey explained that the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic lockdowns may be easing but it is still a major challenge. He noted that ships expecting to spend 25-30 days in the shipyard for a BWMS retrofit are now often there for 45-60 days when problems occur with joint scrubber/BWMS installation projects. “This is not only an unexpected financial and scheduling burden for the vessel operators, it also delays future projects from entering the shipyard on their scheduled dates.”
Despite meticulous planning, it takes very little to upset a crowded engineering schedule. Many shipyards and suppliers are facing significant delays in deliveries and shipyard schedules due to the Covid-19 coronavirus. Mr Harvey commented on Ecochlor’s schedules. “There are local restrictions on transportation (closed highways and trains) and 14+ day quarantine periods are now in place for workers returning to the shipyard. The biggest issues affecting commissioning systems at the start of 2020 have been transportation delays for supplies and restrictions on workers due to the epidemic. We are in daily contact with our suppliers to ensure the risk to our clients is minimalised during this difficult time.”
With the number of installations scheduled to grow significantly in 2021 and again in 2022, BWMS suppliers are warning it is more important than ever for the shipowner to start preplanning these conversions as early as possible. The spike in lead times in shipyards will increase and the availability of space will likely decrease with even the most meticulous planner ending up with results that are far from satisfactory.
From the BWMS installers point of view, there is also a difference between the owners’ perception of shipyard capabilities and reality. One issue is shipyards appear to have little muscle memory. Due to the sheer number of retrofits that have been completed over the last few years, shipyards should have a lot more experience in self-directing the installation process. In Mr Harvey’s experience that has not been the case.
“There is not a lot of carryover from project to project by the shipyard. With the volume of vessels in shipyards and constant turnover of workforce, proper installation and the quality of the installation is an ongoing concern. Additionally, with few exceptions, superintendents do not have the time to devote their entire attention to installing a BWMS since the retrofit is only a small portion of the total project that needs to happen in the shipyard during a drydock, especially combined with a scrubber installation. For the best results, the manufacturer’s oversight of the installation is highly recommended.”