The US Coast Guard granted eight type-approvals for ballast water systems in 2018, and new technology may yet turn the industry on its head
There are now 15 ballast water treatment systems (BWMS) type-approved by the US Coast Guard (USCG), the de facto standard by which BWMS are judged - though this was never the intention of the USCG.
The latest BWMS to achieve type-approval was De Nora Balpure. De Nora was the ninth manufacturer to apply for USCG type-approval and according to general manager Dr Stelios Kyriacou: “De Nora spent a long time working towards this type-approval and we are delighted that our certification by the USCG has now been granted. Our team has worked hard to ensure owners and operators can partner with De Nora for their ballast water treatment needs in full confidence that we will deliver safe and reliable ballast water compliance for the lifetime of their ship.”
De Nora claims to be the originator and patent holder of the electrochlorination disinfection of ballast water via slipstream method, whereby a small pipe attached to the main ballast line siphons off ballast water through the BWMS. According to De Nora’s proprietary system design, only 0.5% to 1% of the seawater flow entering the ballast line needs to be channelled into the electrochemical unit.
The company says this offers an effective solution for ships with large ballast tanks and high pumping rates, particularly large tankers, bulkers, container ships and LNG carriers, voiding the requirement to store hypochlorite onboard, achieving increased efficiency and avoiding waste.
Techcross become the first South Korean manufacturer to obtain USCG type-approval, this time for its Electro-Cleen System (ECS). Approval was granted on 5 June 2018, more than seven months after the company submitted its application on 31 October 2017. Techcross director of sales and promotion Jay Lee acknowledged that the approval process “took a little longer than we expected” but suggested that this “might be due to the USCG scrutinising the first application tested by Korea Register of Shipping.”
Samsung has also received USCG type-approval for its Puimar filtration and electrolysis system. In June 2018, BIO-UV received type-approval for its BIO-SEA B ultraviolet light-based BWMS and later in the year, at SMM in Hamburg, BIO-UV announced a new sales partnership and zero holding hours, an important principle for vessels that spend relatively little time in port, such as short-sea tankers.
Elsewhere, the Wärtsilä Aquarius electro-chlorination BWMS utilises filtration and electro-chlorination technology, while maintaining a high degree of safety, operability and reliability. It ensures compliance with regulations, even with varying levels of water quality, while safety has been a fundamental consideration in the design, according to the company, with hazard analyses employed to eliminate installation and operational risks. Wärtsilä also offers a BWMS using filtration and ultra-violet irradiation, which is undergoing type-approval.
Another BWMS to win type-approval is the Hyundai Heavy Industries HiBallast unit, which is a filtration and electrolysis system with a capacity of 75-10,000 m3/hour.
Chinese manufacturer Headway has also won USCG type-approval for its OceanGuard BWMS. Shipowners named by Headway as having its BWMS units in their vessels include Gener8 Maritime, Carnival Cruises, Chemical Transportation Group and Tropical Shipping. In October, Headway announced orders for 105 BWMS from Genco Shipping and Eagle Bulk Shipping.
The first Japanese manufacturer to win USCG type-approval was JFE Engineering Corp in November 2018 for its BallastAce system. JFE has been working with independent US test laboratory NSF International since 2014 and is planning shipboard tests with Canada’s Fednav. BallastAce combines three functions: filtration, chemical treatment and venture tubes, which are designed to separate bacteria from mud and sand to enhance the disinfection effect of the chemical agent.
Companies that have won USCG type-approval have a marketing advantage over the non-approved systems, but a recent change in US law will bring USCG standards in line with those of IMO. Following a bipartisan agreement on language, the USCG Authorization Act with the attached Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA) was passed by the US Senate at the end of 2018.
“The change in language and the passage of VIDA through the Senate is a long-term boost to the whole of the ballast water treatment industry”
The implications of VIDA are many but it essentially brings USCG type-approval methodologies in line with those of IMO. This includes:
The change in language and the passage of VIDA through the Senate is a long-term boost to the whole of the ballast water treatment industry, as it opens the door to a wider range of treatment systems from different manufacturers.
One of those is Trojan Marinex, whose spokeperson, commenting on VIDA, said: "We are very encouraged with the US Senate's passage of the Bill and look forward to the US House of Representative's passage also. The Bill unequivocally requires the USCG to adopt a reproductive method based on best available science."
The latest company to enter the BWMS arena is BOS, with its Natural Ballast approach. This is a truly disruptive approach in that Natural Ballast does not aim to destroy species in ballast water, nor render them unable to reproduce.
Chief executive Jerry Ng would not reveal, for commercial reasons, exactly how the system worked, but it is believed to utilise a real-time scanner that measures the size of the species in the ballast water intake.
Those batches of water that contain species too large for D2 standard are diverted back overboard or into another ballast water tank. The system uses artificial intelligence and high-speed processors to record the location of the water and as the vessel sails, the BOS Natural Ballast system constantly sorts through the ballast water, bringing in deep-ocean water as required to meet the necessarily level of compliance.
A main concern of the environmental lobby as regards most BWMS is that they necessitate high power requirements, which increases fuel consumption and thus emissions during operations. According to Mr Ng, the BOS system has a small in-vessel footprint, and only requires a power feed for a small pump, giving it a potentially significant commercial advantage.