Moving the goal posts

Jun 30 2013

The MEPC’s move to put back implementation dates within the Ballast Water Convention (BWC) has naturally provoked much comment, both for and against.

This move follows concerns being expressed about the number of vessels that will need to retrofit ballast water management systems once the BWC enters into force and the availability of technology and yard space for the retrofits.

One of the major areas of concern has been the implementation dates within the convention that would require any ship built from 2009 onwards to have ballast water treatment systems effectively from the date of entry into force of the convention and ships built before 2009 to retrofit systems by 2016 at the latest.

An Assembly resolution issued in 2007, in an attempt to encourage ratification of the convention, offered some leeway for certain ships until the end of 2011, but since that date has long passed without the convention entering into force and with only a fraction of ships having installed systems, it became clear that something more had to be done.

The latest resolution, which is of a nonmandatory nature, recommends that ships built before the entry into force of the convention should not be required to have treatment systems on board until the first renewal survey following their anniversary date of delivery in 2014 or 2016, or following the date of entry into force of the Convention if that comes later.

It has been agreed that a further paragraph should be added clarifying that the renewal survey referred to is that associated with the IOPP Certificate under MARPOL Annex I. The resolution further recommended that once the BWC enters into force the relevant regulations should be amended to reflect this.

The International Parcel Tankers’ Association (IPTA) in a note to its members said that it is noticeable that this is purely an attempt to spread the burden and ease the pressure on shipyards in order to facilitate implementation of the Convention (and thus encourage ratifications).

It does not acknowledge the concerns expressed by industry about the ability of available systems to cope with ambient conditions in different parts of the world despite them having been approved by the IMO, or the possibility of owners and crews being penalised despite investing in a system in all good faith and maintaining and operating it properly. Many of the IMO member states remain in denial about this aspect of the current situation, IPTA claimed.

The MEPC endorsed the decisions made by BLG in respect of ballast water sampling, including the trial period of application of the guidance on sampling and the agreement to refrain from detaining ships, or applying criminal sanctions on the basis of sampling during the trial period.


US stands firm

However, the US reiterated its reservation on this aspect, maintaining its right to act as it sees fit once the convention has entered into force. The correspondence group set up under the auspices of the sub-committee on flag state implementation (FSI) was instructed to continue its work on the development of Guidelines for Port State Control, taking into account the draft assembly resolution and the trial period agreed for PSC sampling and agreement.

Tanker Operator spoke with a few of the 30, or so serious players in the ballast water treatment market about their views on the latest developments and how it will affect them going forward and in particular the forthcoming November meeting at the IMO.

Alfa Laval’s business manager for PureBallast, Per Warg thought that there were positives and negatives in the IMO decision to defer the implementation of the BWC, as the original scheduling was not realistic.

As for the positive aspect of the decision, “It is good that the IMO is taking action as the scheduling is an issue- something had to be done,” he said. He thought that the delay would give those flag states, which have not ratified the convention more time to act, thus bringing the convention into play at the beginning of next year for entry into force 12 months later.

The negative was that the owners who have ordered vessels today can now wait, as they will be counted as retrofits, rather than newbuildings and need not fit systems until 2020-2021 at the time of their vessels’ first scheduled surveys.

However, the US stance will mean than many owners will have to do something when the BWC finally enters into force, otherwise face the wrath of the US Coast Guard.

Warg said that the convention is a political compromise, as it would be physically impossible to fit a system that would cope with every ambient condition worldwide. The water conditions vary considerably, especially when rivers turn from seawater to brackish river water.

He thought that these differences should be taken into account in the testing standards. He also said that the PSC trial period for sampling systems lasting for three to five years should enable these problems to be sorted out and alleviate the problem of a fine for the Master and detention of the vessel through a system unable to cope with the local water conditions.

In general, he thought that owners now understood the problems of leaving space in the machinery room for a system and how much power would be needed to run a system, as talks have been underway between owners and manufacturers for several years.

As for the latest 3.0 PureBallast system launched a few months ago, Warg said that the company had already sold 60-70 units and he expected a strong uptake for the rest of this year.

Severn Trent De Nora’s general manager for Balpure BWT system, Jim McGillivray said that the MEPC had been less than helpful in the light of the US stance to keep the status quo. “Nobody needs to do anything until 2016,” he said of owners contemplating newbuildings, qualifying this by saying unless the vessels’ intended trade is to the US.

He said that the company could easily ramp up its systems’ assembly to several hundred per year, as it sources parts through several suppliers and fully develops the drawings, documentation and materials, before switching to local manufacture in say China, South Korea and Japan, giving the company more flexibility.

He explained that tankers could operate using a single system, as the system’s running hours would be less, due to the long voyages usually undertaken. The company can offer systems capable of operating up to 6,500 cu m per hour capacity.


Twin systems

The company has been particularly successful in the large LNGC sector where twin 3,000 cu m per hour capacity units are offered for full redundancy in terms of pumping. McGillivray said that due to the 40-year life-cycle of LNGCs, the cost of fitting twin systems is very little.

In April of this year, it was announced that Severn Trent De Nora’s IMO approved Balpure BWT system had become one of the first technologies to receive the US Coast Guard’s (USCG) Alternate Management System (AMS) certification.

The AMS submission involved a concurrent submittal for type approval to the USCG. This is being reviewed in parallel and will be held to different approval standards than IMO standards, including ETV test protocol by USCG certified test facilities. USCG has not published all the requirements for the type approval review process, which will be determined in the next few years, the company said.

Last year, the company won a contract to supply two 3,000 cu m per hour systems on each of SeaRiver’s Aframax tankers building at Aker Philadelphia.

The crude oil tankers will be trading regularly in the Pacific Ocean on the US West Coast and Alaskan waters. The two sets of BP 3000 systems will be installed as subassemblies, capable of treating ballast water flow rates of up to 3,230 cu m per hour. A 40- micron filter with IECEx explosion proof rated control system will be installed in the main ballast line in the pump room.

Fred Loomis, director of technical projects at another US-based concern W&O said that the company was continuing to work with its customers to pre-plan as much as possible. He thought that the class societies would be inundated with approval work.

Recently W&O was appointed Canadian and US distributors for the Hyde Guardian BWT system, which the US Coast Guard is testing in one of its two approved laboratories – the latest of which is the DNV laboratory.

Hyde offers systems from 60 to 5,200 cu m per hour capacity and among the company’s tanker involvement is 10 Suezmaxes at Daewoo and two Aframaxes, also building in a South Korean shipyard, plus some smaller chemical carriers.

Loomis claimed that Hyde had sold more than 260 systems and that 180 were in operation worldwide. He explained that Hyde was new to the US market and that the local retrofit market was “hotting up”.

He said that Guardian was not the cheapest but offered a quality product, as it was fitted with a good filtration system, able to keep mud out of the ballast tanks, a necessary prerequisite in US waters, especially in the river systems, where the waters can be of varied quality and brackish.

One problem highlighted by Loomis when trading in and around the US, is that each state might develop different rules for ballasting. Already, California and New York State have developed very strict rules on ballasting operations, he said.

He also said that W&O can act as an advisor to owners trading in Canadian and US waters, as the company employs naval architects who regularly visit vessels in US ports.


Planning required

Retrofit and service specialist Goltens Green Technologies’ business development manager Jurrien Baretta said; “ It will not make a lot of difference whether to install during a renewal survey, or during either an intermediate or renewal, as was the original schedule.

“In both cases planning and preparing is required. It gives a bit of additional air to stretch it out with a further 2.5 years, so perhaps better preparation is possible.”

He also warned that issues such as different ambient conditions and the US stance will only lead to less enthusiasm to order anything. “The more confusion there is, the less reason to act,” he said.

Addressing the question of newbuilding vessels now being classed as retrofits, he said; “Newly built vessels that are not fitted with a treatment system should definitely prepare by reserving space for it and possibly also preparing the tie-in points.”

He also explained that Goltens is independent from BWT suppliers so the company can fit all types, including Ex-rated equipment. Goltens is working on two projects for tankers where explosion-proof equipment is being installed, he revealed.

As for the forthcoming November meeting, Baretta said; “Most important for everybody now is to get the convention ratified. As long as this is not the case, shipowners will face uncertainty and be tempted to postpone installation.

“As soon as it is clear that they need to act, they can budget and plan. The longer this is postponed, the larger the bottleneck will be - causing prices to rise and jobs to be rushed,” he concluded.

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