Ballast water treatment system operating issues - a manufacturer's perspective

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

Operational issues with many installed ballast water treatment systems (BWTS) have been highlighted by both Intertanko and ABS, but is it all the fault of the manufacturers?

With the Ballast Water Management (BWM) Convention already mandatory for newbuildings and the US Coast Guard enforcing the US stricter rules on invasive species in ballast water owners are finding that as they start to operate BWTS installed on their vessels in many cases do work as they hope – with Intertanko’s members reporting problems with 60 – 80% of the systems installed.

To get the manufacturer’s side of the story Seatrade Maritime News asked Stelios Kyriacou, general manager of BALPURE BWMS, De Nora, about why owners are experiencing difficulties and also what they should look out for when making the decision on which BWTS to invest in.

Kyriacou says that as with any new systems it is not surprising there teething problems and there are a number of reasons operational issues can occur on those installed on newbuildings.

One of the issues is that owners installed systems but did not test them until their use was required, which in some cases has been years later. “With crews sometimes waiting for several years before beginning system operations, the knowledge imparted during training sessions will have undoubtedly depleted. Poor operational readiness, in combination with deficient operation and maintenance can easily become problematic,” Kyriacou explains.

“Along-side this, installation errors and system integration issues can result in a sub-par performance. As an industry, it’s important to acknowledge that there are still some instrumentation reliability factors – factors that we are working hard at overcoming.”

Past practices

Operators also continue to use the same practices as in the past such as Gravity Ballasting which he says will hamper filter integrated BWTS clogging filters.

To try and avoid problems Kyriacou says that De Nora strongly advocates unit inspections prior to start-up, especially if they have been left stagnant for some time.

“It may even be necessary to consider BWTS re-commissioning and inspection by the OEM to ensure operational readiness, along-side training refreshers for crew. The key here is collaboration – in order to achieve the desired outcome, ship owners, operators and BWTS manufacturers need to work in tandem,” he says.

Choosing a BWTS

In terms of choosing a system Kyriacou says an owner must consider the technical solution on offer and whether it fits the operating profile of the vessel. He also warns that what may appear to be low cost solutions could prove to be very costly in the long run.

“Shipowners need unbiased, factual advice, in order to make the best decisions for their vessels. Simply put, they need a manufacturer that will not only sell them a product, but also provide honest counsel. Manufacturers have a duty to build trust and work in partnership with their customers in a long-term capacity.

If something looks too cheap or a deal looks too good to be true, buyers should be asking themselves – what am I missing out on here? Ensure that you are making a fully informed decision to future-proof yourself against unexpected expenses further down the line,” he warns.

Based on experience

Looking at De Nora’s own system Kyriacou explains that it is based on decades of experience in sea water electrochlorination and water treatment. “The BALPURE ballast water treatment system contains patented slip stream technology, enabling ease of installation and efficient power utilisation.” He also stresses the scalability of the solution and the financial robustness of the company and its history.

However, he is honest and realistic in that no system or vendor has an entirely trouble-free installations in an industry sector that is still on a steep learning curve, with ship board systems facing a different operating environment to land-based systems.

“We, along-side many other manufacturers, have experienced issues with third-party components, such as filters and instrumentation as we all source these items from the same limited pool of producers. However, driven by our ethos of continuous improvement, De Nora is committed to working with both customer and supplier to ensure that problems are addressed, and enhanced solutions are developed,” Kyriacou explains.

To read the original article, visit the Seatrade website here