Optimarin – UV “definitely” for medium size vessels

May 20 2021

Using a UV ballast water system has clear advantages over an electrochemical system for tanker operators with sufficient power to run it for the amount of water they need to handle, such as medium size product and chemical tankers says UV supplier Optimarin.

“What we see, if you have enough power to use a UV system, you should definitely use it,” says Tore Andersen, executive vice president sales and marketing with UV ballast water equipment supplier Optimarin.


“It is easier to use, it is harmless, you have no chemicals to carry around. It is much cheaper to install.”


Using UV, you are not restricted to only using water with a certain salinity level – which can be a challenge for systems utilising electrolysers.


“On the other hand, if you have a huge tanker with limited power, bigger flow, bigger volume, there’s no choice, you have to go for an electrolyser.”


Within the tanker sector, Optimarin focusses on medium and small sized ships, not VLCCs. A medium sized vessel may need 500 KW of power to run a UV system.



Optimarin system

Optimarin has been developing systems for over 25 years, and has around 800 systems on vessels sailing today.


Current Optimarin customers include Utkilen, Trafigura, Hapag Lloyd, Fednav, GulfMark, Hapag Lloyd, Matson Navigation, McDermott, the Danish Navy, MOL, Seatruck and Technip.


The company’s systems are installed on about 100 tankers, including product tankers and smaller chemical tankers.


“It is a proven system, especially on the tanker side,” Mr Andersen says. “Owners are talking to each other, saying, ‘this is a good system, this is reliable, we try to meet on delivery time, the service they offer globally is good’”.


As a UV system, “the running cost is quite low, not too much spare parts to be changed, the system is very stable, it is easy to use, there’s not many mistakes [by crew],” he says.


When it comes to choosing a system, tanker operators choose Optimarin because they know “you should choose a system that is proven and we know will work,” he says.


“And also we have a good enough service network, people who can assist you if something goes wrong.”


Installations can cost between half a million dollars to a million for a large vessel.


“It is important not to pick a system because it is $10,000 cheaper, have a look at what you can get for your money, ask for a reference, so you can talk to some other user,” he said.



In October 2020, Optimarin received a revised IMO G8 certificate for its ballast water management system.


The revised IMO G8 guidelines came into force on 28 October 2020. All systems installed after that date must meet the new, stricter criteria to comply with IMO’s Ballast Water Management convention.


(For systems installed before this date, the existing type approval remains valid).


By October 2020, only a small number of suppliers had the approval.

“I expect quite some few will get the certificate in the coming months,” he says. “My message is, make sure that when you choose a maker, they have those certificates ready.”


“All of us had to go through quite some extensive testing – it costs money.”


As of December 2020, Optimarin was the only UV supplier to be approved by USCG with a choice of two filter manufacturers – Filtrex or Boll, in this case.


The system also has certification from classification societies ABS, BV, DNVGL, LR, CCS & MLIT Japan. 


It has ATEX and IECEX approval from USCG and IMO for the system to be used in hazardous areas.


Remote support

Optimarin’s systems have a remote monitoring and support option.


The system can be configured to send a wide range of data to Optimarin’s cloud server for access by its customers, such as about power consumption and water pump rates.


Shipping company staff can connect to the system and try to diagnose problems or alarms, or update the software. Optimarin has a 24 hour service desk.


The system can connect to the vessel’s computer network, so it is possible to control the ballast water system from anywhere onboard, if there is a network connection.


Delays to installation

The Covid period has been difficult for ballast water suppliers, with an increase in the number of ships being sold to new owners, delays of installation and also difficulties finding dry dock space for installing systems.


Tight finances mean that shipowners have been seeking to delay installation for as long as possible. But they don’t have unlimited flexibility here, the deadline is their first renewal date for an International Oil Pollution Prevention Certificate after Sept 7, 2017, and certificates need to be renewed every 5 years.


Leaving it too late may leave companies with reduced options for a supplier.


“That’s my biggest fear, that shipping companies, tanker owners included, are dragging their decision very much out, ending up with a challenge to get proper engineering done, supply systems in time,” Mr Andersen says.


About 2 years ago, all system suppliers were specifying a 6 month delivery time for a system, but now they are under pressure to reduce that, he says.


The market is also becoming more price competitive.


“It is not a good situation for any of us [suppliers]. It could be avoided with having the market slightly different,” he said.


Water quality

If you operate a UV ballast water system, you need to consider what kind of water you are using for ballast. It will be harder to remove the microbes with UV if it has a lot of sediment in it, because this is harder for UV to penetrate. This could apply if you are taking ballast in a river or a challenging harbour.


Companies can plan for this, such as by loading some of the required ballast water on their way into the harbour, rather than when they are in the harbour, Mr Andersen says.


The ballast water system has input-orientated sensors, which measure the opacity of the water (how hard it is for light to penetrate), and will reduce the water flowrate accordingly to ensure compliance. This will mean that high sediment water takes longer to treat.


In an extreme situation, the system will sound an alarm saying that the water is too opaque for the UV system to work.



In terms of testing, there are US rules saying that ships going to the US need to do bacteria testing once a year. Companies can do it themselves or hire a company to come to the harbour to do it, Mr Andersen says.


One challenge with testing is if the tanks contain a lot of sediment, so when you pump water in the tank, and then it mixes with the sediment already in the tank, the system can fail because the water contains sediment.


“To avoid this you need to make sure the tank is clean,” he says.


“When you do the test as we have described in our manual it is not a problem.”


“The testing for type approval is much tougher than the tests you do on ship.”


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