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BWTC - are you on course for compliance?

The Naval Architect: September 2015

The IMO’s 2004 Ballast Water Management Convention lays down strict guidelines for the treatment and discharge of ballast water.  Already in force as of 1 January 2015 in US waters and universal ratification is expected to occur during the next six months.

The new legislation, which will require tens of thousands of ships to be retrofitted with new systems for Ballast Water Treatment, has caused much debate within the marine industry.

To date, discussion has largely centred around which type of treatment technology is most suited to the task. However, this has overshadowed two very important aspects of the new regulations which must form part of the overall treatment regime in order to be effective in ensuring environmental compliance: point of discharge measurement and recording and reporting of treatment activities. 

The new rules are governed by strict liability laws, meaning that operators or owners can be considered guilty without a finding of fault. The authorities need only prove that the event occurred, with vessel owners being held responsible for the discharge. Consequently there is a very real need for a measurement and recording system that quickly and reliably reports on the efficacy of the ballast water treatment plant.

A new joint development between PSM Instrumentation and Chelsea Technologies Group aims to address these important issues and to provide clear evidence of compliance when required to do so.

Point of discharge measurement
A key requirement for any treatment system installed is to provide analysis of the ballast water at the point of discharge to prove correct treatment. Using the inherent high sensitivity of the FastBallast Compliance Monitor, the variable fluorescence of live viable phytoplankton cells in moving ballast water can be monitored to the levels required by the IMO D2 standard (10 to 50um category).

Developed by Chelsea Technologies Group and based on established marine technology, the FastBallast Compliance Monitor has been specifically developed for working with phytoplankton within the aqueous phase at low optical density, exactly the conditions encountered in ballast water. FastBallast interrogates the photosynthesis process taking place within phytoplankton to distinguish between which cells are alive or dead. Using complex algorithms, the system can rapidly determine if your ballast water discharge is compliant.

To ensure that all phytoplankton present within the 10 to 50um range are detected, the system uses multiple LED excitation channels. A highly sensitive photon multiplier tube is used to detect the variable fluorescence of live phytoplankton.  Each measurement takes only 200µs, which means that data can be collected from fast moving water (up to two metres of linear flow per second), typically encountered within ballast tanks or water treatment system piping.

FastBallast is available as a portable or integrated system, capable of operating in flow through and static sampling mode, the portable version is designed for carrying out spot check measurements, reassuring port state control and shipboard engineers that their BWTS is operating as it should. The touch screen displays a RAG (red-amber-green) system used to indicate whether the ballast water discharge is compliant with regards to current regulations. Data can be downloaded via USB or ethernet for a more detailed assessment of the treated ballast water.

The integrated variant of FastBallast is designed for permanent installation within a BWTS, where it will operate in flow through mode providing a continuous update on discharge compliance. This version of the system can interface with PSM Instrumentation’s BallastView, a system for logging compliance data onboard a vessel which can also transmit data ashore, if required.

Using FastBallast will improve the ballast water management regime of vessels in time for ratification and will assure the end user whether that be a ship operator, BWTS manufacturer or port state control officer that a given Ballast Water Treatment System is discharging ballast water in

Recording and reporting of treatment activities
An equally critical stipulation of the new regulations is Requirement B-2, which calls for vessels to hold data in a ballast water record book. This can be in an electronic format, either standalone or integrated into another system. The recorded data must include the following key information to prove correct operation:

  • When ballast is taken onboard, volume, date, time and geographical location
  • Movement of ballast water for onboard ballast water management purposes
  • When ballast is discharged to sea, volume, date, time and geographical location
  • When ballast is discharged to a reception facility, volume, date, time and location
  • Accidental or other exceptional uptake or discharges of ballast water

Entries into the ballast water record book must be maintained onboard for a period of two years after the date of entry and thereafter kept in the company’s control for a further three years.

Marine systems specialists PSM Instrumentation undertake continuous research and development aimed at providing operators with improved control and visibility onboard vessels. The latest BallastView system from PSM Instrumentation, for example, is a modular solution comprising a suite of onboard and shoreside hardware and software elements, developed to ensure vessels are operated efficiently, safely and in an environmentally responsible manner. Integral to the system’s functionality are secure data recording capabilities which more than meet the stipulations set out for the new reporting requirements. 

The system’s Ballast Water Treatment module allows shipping vessel operators and onshore personnel to monitor the operation of ballast water treatment equipment continuously without the need for intervention by the ship’s crew. An encrypted recording capability electronically captures all key data and provides secure archive storage onboard or onshore, offering proof of correct operation and legal compliance during the three year period required.

Modern solutions such as BallastView not only provide the answer for new vessels, but offer an affordable, least cost solution for retrofitting existing vessels to meet the requirements of the new regulations. Designed for compatibility, BallastView is scalable and can be integrated with existing system elements as required, thus minimising the cost of upgrades. 

The technology has already been successfully employed across a number of fleets for similar monitoring, recording and data transmission applications in complying with MARPOL regulations for Oily Water Treatment and Oil Record Book regulations.  The automatic collection of data forming the Ballast Water Treatment Book, for example, then might also be transmitted in real-time to Port State Control prior to arrival to facilitate a swift clearance of this part of the vessel’s inspection well ahead of port entry. 

While earlier products were only able to monitor and log signals from primary treatment equipment, the development of the new integrated systems means other areas - for example tank levels, pump operations and valve positions - can now also be monitored. This comprehensive surveillance approach enables potential issues to be flagged as system alerts where, for example, ballast levels are falling but the treatment plant is not running.

The need to upgrade to emerging new legislative requirements presents operators with the ideal opportunity to take positive measures to improve onboard control. The installation of a modern integrated system with the latest monitoring and measurement technology can prevent incidents which might otherwise lead to violations, incurring significant fines for fleet operators and the risk of prosecution for senior officers who could also be held legally responsible.

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