Hyde Marine – perspectives on tanker ballast water systems

Jun 04 2020


We interviewed Mark Riggio, senior market manager with Hyde Marine, a UV ballast water equipment supplier, about how he sees the current picture for tanker operators installing ballast water systems, with new IMO requirements next October.

There are “unique challenges of the tanker space” with ballast water systems, “which the industry has not yet unpacked and understood,” says Mark Riggio, senior market manager with ballast water equipment manufacturer Hyde Marine, based in Pennsylvania.

 

The big incoming issue is a change to requirements for new ballast water systems on October 28, 2020. Systems installed after this date will need to meet a set of requirements known as “Revised G8” or MEPC.300(72). It is not currently clear which companies’ systems comply with the new rules, Mr Riggio says.

 

Note, these rules apply to new systems installed after Oct 28, not to systems installed before that date. But tanker companies making orders for  new systems now (April 2020) probably would not have them installed before this deadline.

 

If ships have new ballast systems installed after Oct 28 which do not meet the G8 requirements, they will not be able to enter most of the world’s ports.

 

The G8 requirements  were developed following concerns that some ballast water systems would not be as good as they needed to be in removing microbes from water. The guidelines were originally defined in 2005 and underwent a critical revision in 2016. The push for the revised G8 guidelines was driven partly by customer organizations like the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS).

 

Under the initial guidelines, all new build ships must have had a “D2”-compliant system for ballast (shipboard microbe removal system) since September 2017.

 

Existing ships have the option of “D1” system (where ballast water is exchanged in deep water before the vessel enters port), but they must have a D2 system by the time of the ship’s first International Oil Pollution Prevention (IOPP) Certificate renewal survey after 8 September 2017. Certificates last for 5 years usually, so that means by September 2022. 

 

Thinning out of suppliers

According to Hyde Marine’s internal research, there are only 13 systems that have this new G8 certification. “There are some surprising names that are not on our list,” he said.

 

IMO used to publish lists of which companies were certified, but “they stopped doing that,” he said. “Now we rely on Flag Administrations to tell the IMO that they have issued these new certifications.”

 

About 60 ballast water equipment manufacturers got the original IMO certification – so if there are really are only 13 companies certified to the new standard, it means about 75 per cent of suppliers may be leaving the market.

 

A thinning out of the ballast water supply sector may be good news for the suppliers which survive, because having 60 suppliers in the market made it very hard to make any margin. “I would contend that everyone is basically selling at their marginal price,” he says.

 

Also, the market offerings of the suppliers had little differentiation, with the industry consolidating around two technologies, electrochlorination and ultra violet (UV) light.

 

Mr Riggio notes that many of the ballast water companies are funded by investors, who thought they were investing in a safe market in 2012, due to ships being required to carry the equipment.

 

Testing for the original IMO certificate would have cost $1m to $4m, he says. Then the USCG came up with a tougher standard. Testing for that standard would cost $4m to $10m. So the investors had to spend between $5m and $14m for two sets of testing, without necessarily selling many systems.

 

Testing for IMO’s G8 standards means more expenditure. There is some overlap with the USCG standard, but not a complete overlap. So it is possible that your USCG test gets you through G8, but not a certainty, he said.

 

Each test round takes 18 to 36 months to get done. The restrictions on travel during spring due to coronavirus makes it harder to meet the October deadline.

 

Hazardous classification

Tanker companies, unlike many other types of shipping, additionally need systems which have Ex certification (classified as safe for use in hazardous areas), since the vessel is carrying fuels which can catch fire.

 

Ballast water systems have two different explosion concerns. The first is that cargo fuel tanks are usually next to ballast water tanks. There are concerns that the steel between the tanks may corrode, so fuel enters the ballast water. So ballast water can potentially contain explosive fuels.

 

The second concern is that ballast water systems are typically placed in hazardous environments, such as the deck or pump room, and so there cannot be any spark from the equipment in case it ignites any explosive gases in the surrounding air.

 

So there are concerns about both the internals and externals of the system. Being explosion proof for both at the same time can make the system design very challenging.

 

To add to the potential hazard, electro chlorination (EC) systems, which are popular with tanker operators, release small amounts of hydrogen, which is itself hazardous.

 

“It is not that simple to get a ballast water treatment system Ex certified,” he says.

 

USCG standards

The US Coastguard standards, required for vessels visiting US ports, differ to the IMO standards in that they require microbes to be killed, not just sterilised.

 

Whether ultraviolet light kills microbes, or just sterilises them so they cannot reproduce, depends on the power of the lamp. You typically need three times more power to kill microbes, Mr Riggio says.

 

For a mid-sized tanker, it could mean 500 KW to a megawatt of power. Having generators onboard which can make this much power is not very popular in an age where companies are trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

 

And the power you need also depends on how much sediment is in the water, which impedes the power of the light through the water. If the vessel has taken on ballast in a river, it is likely to have much more sediment.

 

Sediment in ballast water is actually usually less of an issue for tanker operators than for operators of other types of vessels, because tankers do not typically go up rivers much, because they need a deep draft.

 

Companies using UV for ballast water systems on tankers in the US will typically use three methods to make it work – increasing the power, reducing the water flow, and removing sediment from the water (or only using ballast water with a low level of sediment), Mr Riggio says.

 

EC vs UV systems

The tanker market seems to be consolidating around two methods for handling microbes - electro chlorination (EC) and ultraviolet (UV), Mr Riggio says.

 

Tankers generally have much larger volumes of ballast water than other types of ship, which pushes them to a certain class of systems.

 

An advantage of EC systems is that the power requirement is usually lower – 500KW to 700KW for a Suezmax or VLCC, compared to 2MW for UV, he says. The enormous UV power requirements are largely due to the US Coastguard requirements described above.

 

An advantage of UV systems is that they are much simpler to operate, not requiring any specialist knowledge, Mr Riggio says. “It’s a very simple process. It really doesn’t add much to the crew’s burden if designed properly.”

 

Electro chlorination systems mean handling chemicals. The electrical power in salt water causes sodium chloride (salt) to react with water to form sodium hypochlorite (NaOCl) and hydrogen. The hydrogen has to be vented off, and the sodium hypochlorite kills the microbes.

 

These chemicals can gradually wear down cargo tank coatings, the gaskets, valves and seals, he says. There are risks of killing other organisms around.

 

The chlorine in the water needs to be continually measured using a “Total Residual Oxidants” sensor, to ensure it is not so high as to itself be a pollutant in the water going overboard. Mr Riggio says that this sensor can be “very finicky”.

 

“An EC system is a completely unique piece of equipment on the ship,” he says.

 

A further weakness of chlorination systems is that they are sometimes not so good at adjusting to changing flow rates, Mr Riggio says.

 

This is very important for tanker operators to understand. The vessel will typically be pumping in oil and pumping out ballast water at the same time. The oil and ballast water go in different tanks, but the flows need to be matched to ensure the vessel is stable but not overloaded.

 

If the ballast water is not treated fast enough, there may be a need to slow down oil pumping.

 

“You end up trying to call the port, ‘slow down the pumps’. That’s sometimes more or less possible, but it’s  a delicate balance that crews have to be careful about,” he says.

 



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