BWMS suppliers and engineering firms stress the need for resolute and sustainable planning to ensure a smooth and timely engagement before deadlines
The IMO guidelines for type approval of ballast water management systems (BWMS) were revised in October 2018. Since the revision, IMO now states that type approval according to the new BWM system code MEPC.300(72) (also referred to as the revised G8) is mandatory for all BWM systems installed on vessels after 28 October 2020. Up until October 2019, close to 10,000 vessels— nearly 10% of the global fleet—had been fitted with a BWMS, according to Clarkson Research Services (CRS). It would take a massive effort to retrofit the remainder of the fleet and that was before the main centre of retrofit installation yards, China, shutdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Ballast Water Technology Treatment spoke to some BWMS suppliers to determine how they are coping as the deadline approaches.
“Operators are likely to find that qualified integration engineers become scarce, drydock space limited and approvals from regulatory agencies take longer”
Regarding delays to installations, Ecochlor’s chief executive Steve Candito said: “We are seeing some delays in the drydocking of vessels, but once in drydock the shipyard time isn’t lasting any longer than usual. The drydock period includes inspections and repairs to the vessel, not just fitting the BWMS, but in terms of BWMS retrofits, I would say that the installations are getting shorter not longer. Much will depend on the experience of the shipyard team and other stakeholders. A retrofit for a BWMS averages approximately 20 days, plus time for commissioning. Little things can disrupt the schedule, like severe weather, crew holidays or limited shipyard staffing. Additionally, some owners are adding in the installation of scrubbers to the drydock, which can increase the schedule by as much as 25 days.”
He continued: “There are many combined factors that have driven the recent rescheduling of BWMS retrofits. Fortunately, the delays we have experienced at Ecochlor have been nominal. In early 2020, we suffered some planned for delivery delays because of the Chinese New Year holiday period, which was then followed by the shutdown of one of our component factories in China due to the Covid-19 outbreak, which, of course, was not planned. We took steps to find alternate suppliers and support our main supplier so that we were operating normally by March. We also air freighted equipment that would normally have been sent by sea freight (which has a longer delivery time) so the disruption to our operations and clients was minimal. As long as our clients order their systems within our build guidelines, there should be no issue with on-time delivery.”
Unfortunately, that is not always possible, as owners and operators must respond to market conditions. One unnamed supplier reported that it had airfreighted kit out to a vessel in China, which arrived on the quayside just as the tanker left to ballast to Saudi Arabia. The sudden surge in tanker freight rates due to Saudi Arabia opening the taps had led to the tanker being reactivated.
The Covid-19 coronavirus lockdown has reduced demand for shipping services around the world. The dry bulk and liner sectors are facing a recession if there is no recovery in demand. But this is an opportunity to fit BWMS and for the most part, shipowners are trying to keep to their original schedule as best as possible.
The US Coast Guard (USCG) has offered some extensions for BWMS retrofits. On 9 April 2020, it published Marine Safety Information Bulletin (MSIB) 14-20 “COVID-19: Ballast Water Management (BWM) Extensions” to deal with issues impacting BWMS installations worldwide due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The USCG MSIB provided different guidance based on extension requests for up to 12 months, or greater than 12 months.
IMO and the Flag societies have not made any significant changes to their policies regarding IOPP certificate postponements. Consequently, shipowners should be mindful that taking advantage of a longer USCG BWMS installation extension without a commensurate Flag State drydock extension could result in the vessel being taken out of service or off the regulatory drydock cycle in order to install the BWMS, which could prove very costly. Ecochlor’s Mr Candito suggested that the shipowner could prepare the vessel for a later BWMS installation during their earlier regulatory drydock by, for example, installing valves in the main ballast line. “This plan may at least avoid having to drydock the vessel off cycle, but is likely to increase installation costs because ‘riding crew’ installs are generally more expensive,” he said.
Most suppliers agree that a delay to a BWMS retrofit now on order by one year, as permitted by the USCG, will see the installation pushed to 2021/2022. But official delays do not alter the volume of BWMS retrofits, which will be squeezed into a smaller timeframe. Operators are likely to find that qualified integration engineers for the retrofit become scarce, drydock space limited and approvals from regulatory agencies take longer. The action of delaying at an individual level could compound the impact on schedules across the fleet.
At Enterprises Shipping & Trading (EST), the plan was to monitor the BWMS market for several years before choosing a system. EST fleet manager Mr E. Candiotis, said: “EST had chosen not to decide on BWTS retrofits because of the immaturity of the industry, the regulatory uncertainty, and the need to filter huge volumes of water whilst in port waiting for a costly failure. Our strategy has been to wait for the next-generation of technologies that are designed to fit with, and have the least impact on, our fleet’s operations and the vessel’s engineroom, while at the same time providing an adequate degree of redundancy and assurance of compliance in all occasions.”
EST has now chosen Envirocleanse’s inTank BWMS. Envirocleanse’s president Jim Stanka said: “EST conducted an intense evaluation of all aspects of the inTank system to ensure the most comprehensive fit for their fleet profile, including: opex; capex; compliance; reliability; cargo operations; modular and flexible installation. We are therefore extremely gratified that our system has been given this vote of confidence.”
It is perhaps surprising that shipyards are not becoming faster on each install. Suppliers report that even consecutive installations of the same BWMS in the same yard have to be treated as different projects. This can in part be explained by the high degree of staff turnover at some yards; those performing the fitment may be unfamiliar with the BWMS, although the yard itself may have fitted several units from the same manufacturer.
Typically, a shipyard is working simultaneously on many projects for multiple vessels. The schedule for each job is very tight and does not allow much time to evaluate every detail of an installation. Suppliers complain when projects are rushed, the installation is likely to contain hidden issues. Mr Candito said: “Ecochlor offers a retrofit installation oversight service to shipowners and most of our clients now take advantage of this benefit.”
Another issue noted by suppliers involves failures in the logistics element. This manifests in missing parts on the dockside during key points in the installation. Shipping through the manufacturer can alleviate many of the problems in the receipt of parts at the shipyard, but the critical issue is having sufficient time to ship a system at manufacturing completion. Some suppliers offer to handle the logistics through a door-to-door service.
Optimarin of Norway and SunRui of China have each started along the road of integrating their supply chain logistics with the announcement of a strategic co-operation agreement to provide a one-stop-shop for shipowners; this will cover requirements for electrolysis and UV-based ballast water treatment system technology. Optimarin’s chief executive officer Leiv Kallestad said: “By working together we can offer a complete sales and service one-stop-shop, where all [customer] needs can be met through a single fleet agreement. In the current climate, with the pressing need for shipowners to comply with regulations quickly, this simplifies procurement and delivers the long-term peace of mind and performance they need.”
BWMS supplier DESMI noted that while these systems are generally standardised equipment, it is important to choose a supplier that has the capability, as well as flexibility, to assist if the installation requires customisation.
Furthermore, most suppliers agree that owners and operators should employ an experienced integration engineering firm that has a strong understanding of the BWMS they are installing. Shipowners should undertake due diligence in finding a BWMS manufacturer that offers a technology that is compatible with a vessel’s sailing route, along with the reliability and strong service support vital to long-term successful operations. Additionally, all stakeholders need a close working relationship with the vessel’s Class society and Flag to ensure timely delivery of approvals.
Finally, regular, and consistent communication between all participants during the planning and execution of a project is critical to a successful retrofit installation. This communication must continue when the vessel arrives at the yard. Owners and operators should look for BWMS suppliers and engineering firms that offer a full service of daily meetings with the shipyard crew and engineering team, the shipyard superintendent, integration engineer and shipowner. By doing so, they can see the project’s progression, as well as highlight any issues that many need to be addressed and thereby mitigate potential problems.
Riviera will host a series of 45-minute webinars on subjects ranging from maritime propulsion to vessel optimisation, ballast water management, maritime air pollution and maritime leaders among many others commencing 5 May 2020. Find a list of the webinars and register your interest now