Blog: My takeaways on the Beyond Certification BWT Webinar

By: Dr. Stelios Kyriacou, Technical Director - Marine, De Nora

I really enjoyed De Nora’s recent webinar on ballast water management, and the issues that the industry will face as ballast water regulations mature past the certification phase. I particularly enjoyed the freedom afforded to myself and the other industry experts to elaborate on the challenges we have already faced, and what we are preparing to deal with.

The class society ABS has estimated that approximately 45,000 vessels have yet to adopt a Ballast Water Management System (BWMS). Ship owners and operators still have time to retrofit their vessels to be compliant, but we should not be under the illusion that this would be achieved overnight as retrofit projects are far from trivial.  The challenge in now on to not only deliver retrofit projects but also ensure BWMS operational compliance after installation.

I think that everyone in the webinar agreed with Mark Cameron of Ardmore when he said that, “[Tanker operators] are not here to be caught out for minor infractions of small details. We’re here to actually do what is expected of us and for the [BWTS] to live up to what it is expected to do.” I believe that this extends to all other types of operator in the maritime industry as well; people across the industry want to be operationally compliant from day one.

The experiences of many in the industry have made operational compliance seem like a very difficult goal to meet, though. I was very interested to hear Carsten Ostenfeldt of Anglo-Eastern explain the challenges they had faced with BWMS. Their company has experience using 19 different makes and models of system, on approximately 210 ships fitted from new and 90 retrofits. He said that all the systems exhibited issues in the first year of use, ranging from the quality of the parts in the system to suppliers with a lack of knowledge of their own system, but that there are increasingly fewer issues as the situation has matured.

Issues with BWM systems have been widely reported and therefore having a system installed and fully operational does not guarantee discharge compliance. Guillaume Drillet of SGS highlighted just how common issues still are. In BWMS tests on a variety of ships, with different treatment technologies they found that non-compliance occurs in around 15-20% of cases, because of issues with the operation of the BW system.

Ship owners have not been helped by the uncertainty stemming from the IMO’s poor management of the situation. Article 9 of the Ballast Water Management Convention delegates responsibility for creating appropriate guidelines for compliance testing to the IMO, and the IMO separately is responsible for certifying ballast water testing systems. The IMO has been slow to certify those compliance evaluation devices and kits, many of which are already on the market, and has not yet published guidelines on approved processes for ballast water testing. It is very hard to argue when Philip Roche of Norton Rose Fulbright said that this is a “failure of international institutions to get their act together… ballast water (treatment regulations) have been coming down the road for a long time and it just seems to me unacceptable”.

As I said in the webinar, De Nora’s decision to go beyond on data collection, logging and verification through including sensors in our BWM system is the closest it is possible to get to overcome these operational uncertainties. De Nora’s BWM technologies log every stage of the management of the system, which gives us the opportunity to carry out a remote assessment of the system installed on the ship. This remote diagnostic methodology allows a ship owner or operator to ensure that they are continually compliant, and enables them to flag and repair an issue as soon as it arises. This also allows De Nora to issue corrective instructions to ensure that the issue is rectified correctly without the need for the mobilisation of an expensive service engineer.

You can catch up on this webinar by registering on Rivera’s site here