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USCG driving ballast water agenda

Shiprepair & Conversion Technology: 2nd quarter 2016

The IMO Ballast Water Management Convention (BWMC) is edging closer to implementation. Following recent ratifications by Belgium and Fiji, which bring the combined gross tonnage of ratifying countries to 34.8%, a mere 0.2% more is required to make global ballast water treatment requirements a reality.

While entry into force is imminent, there is still controversy surrounding its implementation. Recently, leading shipowner group, BIMCO, urged the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) to make ‘tangible progress’ on the revision of the so-called G8 guidelines for approval of ballast water management systems, to address the concerns that surround IMO’s Ballast Water Convention.

BIMCO wishes to see the MEPC finalise the revision of the G8 guidelines, which it claims are not yet adequate for IMO approved systems to consistently meet the requirements of the Ballast Water Convention. According to BIMCO: “Revised guidelines are urgently needed by manufacturers, shipowners and regulators to realise the ambitions of the Ballast Water Convention. The shipping industry needs reliable ballast water treatment systems that are fit for global use and presently IMO approved systems may not always live up to the required standards under real operating conditions onboard ships, and no such systems are presently available that are approved to the much more stringent USCG approval standard.”

It is clear that getting USCG approval is going to be the key requirement for many shipping companies. Following the USCG decision to revoke the most probable number (MPN) method in assessing ballast water treatment systems, manufacturers are seeking to align themselves with its requirements. Tests of Alfa Laval PureBallast are underway using the USCG-approved chloromethylfluorescein diacetate (CMFDA) staining method. With completion expected during Q2 of 2016, the tests will enable a new USCG type approval application after receiving the results.

In mid-December 2015, the USCG issued its decision that the MPN method is not equivalent to the CMFDA staining method stipulated by the USCG Ballast Water Discharge Final Rule. This nullifies previous type approval applications of UV-based ballast water treatment systems submitted on the basis of the MPN method, including that of Alfa Laval’s PureBallast.

The decision solely applies to the MPN method and does not disqualify UV-based systems from USCG type approval. Nor, states Alfa Laval, does it necessitate any change in PureBallast, which is approved by the USCG as an Alternate Management System (AMS).  “Alfa Laval has both a robust biological disinfection technology and a system with AMS approval,” says Stephen Westerling Greer, global business manager for PureBallast. “We are fully convinced of PureBallast’s ability to meet the USCG criteria, so what remains is to demonstrate it according to the USCG’s preferred method. This we are doing quickly in order to support our customers.”

Though US ballast water regulations took effect in 2012, no systems of any technology have yet been type approved by the USCG.
Meanwhile, Norway’s Optimarin has secured a contract with the potential to be the ballast water treatment specialist’s biggest ever. The company has signed a fleet agreement with UK shipowner and management company Carisbrooke for its Optimarin Ballast System (OBS). The deal has the potential to encompass OBS retrofits on the firm’s entire fleet of 46 bulk and multipurpose vessels.

Optimarin’s upcoming USCG approval, on schedule for later this year, is said to have played a decisive part in securing the deal, with a number of Carisbrooke vessels trading in US waters. This certification, in conjunction with the IMO ratification, is proving to be an important factor in accelerating OBS sales, the company states.

Tore Andersen, Optimarin chief executive officer, says: “We can now point to more than 270 installed systems, out of a total of over 370 confirmed orders, illustrating both the expertise of our people and the proven success of our environmentally friendly UV technology. With the upcoming full USCG approval of our system, expected in autumn this year, and our vast experience of both newbuild and retrofit installations, we think we’re perfectly placed.”

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