Shipyards face difficulties because of the number of BWMS retrofits that will be needed
Shipbuilders “are the least familiarised stakeholders” in the expected rush to fit ballast water management systems (BWMSs) to meet IMO’s extended deadline, according to one leading shipyard executive.
Dave Iwamoto, a senior executive at shipbuilder Japan Marine United and a council member of the Active Shipbuilding Experts’ Federation (ASEF), which brings together 10 Asian shipbuilding groups, was speaking in September 2017 at the International BWM Technology and Standardization Forum organised by the Shipbuilding Information Center of China (SICC).
He told delegates that because many shipowners have delayed installing BWMSs, “not many shipyards have built up practical experience.” In addition, not all of them can handle the range of services needed to retrofit a BWMS, he suggested as he outlined a catalogue of potential difficulties that could be avoided with proper planning.
Mr Iwamoto cautioned that this planning should begin about a year before installation is scheduled “to have a comfortable dedicated working plan.” He advised against combining the work with a scheduled drydocking, saying that the work should not be treated as “an accessory job” that is added onto a drydocking repair list.
Due to the number of parties involved in a BWMS project – such as designers, suppliers, fitters, and flag-state representatives – there can be a lot of managers but no leader, Mr Iwamoto explained. This can be avoided if discussions are held “so that necessary procedural disciplines are in place from the very beginning to ensure effective progress of the work.”
He also stressed the need for care when handling BWMS components. They are more delicate than equipment that shipbuilders normally handle, he said. “Particular care is needed for associated instrumentation, since any damage to this may not allow final commissioning work when time may be running out.”
Even before the equipment arrives at a yard, there may be delays caused by import rules. “If the work is done in one country with a BWMS purchased from another, customs regulations cannot be disregarded,” Mr Iwamoto said. And there will be no compensation for delays “caused by regulatory requirements beyond any commercial party’s responsibility.”
With all these potential difficulties, Mr Iwamoto said that a retrofit is more complex than a newbuilding installation. For example, details of the existing piping arrangements may not appear on the drawings and whether the complete installation works properly cannot be confirmed until it has been tested, by which point “most of the work is already done and substantial rectifications may not be easy.”
If a BWMS does not perform properly, it may be difficult to identify the cause. It might be unsuitable equipment or design, or poor workmanship with responsibility lying with the shipowner, engineering company, equipment manufacturer, shipyard or contractor, he said.
“We need to clearly understand that this is a very complicated thing,” Mr Iwamoto said.
Sembcorp fitted 12 BWMSs in 2017
Singapore yard Sembcorp has carried out ballast water management system (BWMS) retrofits as part of its Green Technology Retrofit (GTR) programme. Starting in February 2017, it fitted BWMSs on all three ASEAN Cableship vessels and in November that year it fitted a UV BWMS on the seismic vessel Ramform Sovereign. Further installations brought the yard’s total number of ballast water-related projects during 2017 to 12.
The yard can offer its own unique BWMS, the Semb-Eco L-UV, which was developed jointly with Ecospec. It uses LED-UV irradiation and ultra low frequency electromagnetic waves in a combination that Ecospec reports “produces a highly efficient non-chemical treatment system that consumes very low power.”
Sembcorp has co-operation agreements with six other BWMS makers covering a range of technologies. They include the UK’s Coldharbour Marine,, which offers a gas lift diffusion system, and De Nora of Italy, whose Balpure BWMS uses electrolysis and electrochlorination.