Chelsea Technologies marine sales manager Emma Johnson has a warning for all tanker owners and operators with vessels fitted with ballast water treatment systems: beware human error
The scale of accidental non-compliance with ballast water regulations was recently demonstrated by Anglo-Eastern’s managing director Carsten Ostenfeldt whilst outlining the issues that his company had faced. Of approximately 210 Anglo-Eastern ships fitted with one of 19 different models of ballast water management system (BWMS), he said that every single one exhibited some issues during the first year of use. Given the number of issues reported, shipowners are understandably concerned.
A shipowner or operator investing substantial sums in a BWMS expects to be compliant. Yet, operational differences between the systems currently on the market, as well as technical considerations, mean that they are still exposed to significant risk.
The most pressing concern may be human error. Systems working in similar ways from the same manufacturer may still require different operational procedures. This has created understandable confusion over training for operators and crews, in addition to the challenge of maintaining adequate knowledge despite crew changes.
Should an operator and a crew genuinely believe that they are following the correct operational processes, a BWMS itself will not alert anyone to failures. In these cases, the first time an operator may know there is an issue is when Port State Control issues a fine.
“A shipowner or operator investing substantial sums in a BWMS expects to be compliant”
There are also mechanical risks for shipowners. As systems age and go through onboard planned maintenance regimes, the risk of BWMS failures increase.
A damaged BWMS may not provide any data that shows it is not functioning as designed. Depending on the fault, all readings may look as though the system is fully operational and compliant. Indeed, all of the parts of a system may be operational, but a broken sensor or clogged filter may mean that the system is not treating ballast water to a compliant standard.
In these circumstances, shipowners are burdened with a huge hidden risk. Despite investing large sums in BWMS systems specifically to ensure regulatory compliance, there is a significant risk of non-compliance unless ship operators invest in an ongoing monitoring process.
Easy-to-operate shipboard indicative testing cuts this risk. Through tests that crews can easily operate and understand with minimal training, a crew and shipowner can respond to issues before they are liable for fines, sanctions and potentially significant reputational damage. Corporate Social Responsibility is prominent in shipping today, as global supply chains are exposed to consumer scrutiny in ever-increasing detail.
Operability, reliability, and accuracy were the core principles that Chelsea followed when developing FastBallast. The system integrates a sophisticated measurement technique with a convenient, portable and user-friendly instrument. The unique measurement technique provides a high level of accuracy within an indicative result on discharge compliance. A high degree of automation and an easy-to-understand user interface means that it can be operated with little to no additional training.
The practical implications of current global ballast water management regulations create a huge risk for operators. As the ballast water regulations evolve, it is vital that shipowners do all they can to mitigate those risks. The best way to cut these hidden risks, whether IMO or USCG, is to employ easy-to-operate on-board indicative compliance monitoring and take a pro-active and positive approach to the issue.