The Ballast Water Management Convention, entering into force on September 8, 2017, requires seagoing vessels to install a ballast water treatment system on board. By treating ballast water, which is taken in for safety and navigational reasons, shipowners try to prevent the introduction of alien invasive species that destroy local ecosystems in ports and coastal areas, where they pump the ballast water overboard.

Already in the past there have been quite some doubts about the good functioning of some onboard ballast water treatment systems, due to the complexity of the system, the huge volumes of ballast water involved, the wide variety of seawater (salt, brackish, fresh), and the huge differences in sediment loads.

Classification society American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) has published a report providing insights into how industry is progressing with ballast water management systems.

The Best Practices report for operation of Ballast Water Management (BWM) systems (August 20917) surveyed 30 owners and operators representing over 200 treatment systems.

Only 57% of the BWM systems installed on the vessels of operators surveyed were being operated. The remaining systems were either deemed inoperable or considered problematic.

The major challenges are related to software, hardware and the crew’s ability to operate the systems correctly.

System operators have had to develop plans to keep up with hardware maintenance and maintain an inventory of spare parts on a vessel.

Another recurring concern relates to the chemical consumables used for determining residual oxidants in the ballast water. Proper storage and handling is critical to the operation of systems employing total residual oxidant. Owners with UV systems reported that the cost and frequency of UV lamp replacement were some additional significant concerns.

Operators also reported the reduction of ballast water throughput during both uptake and discharge as an issue, which more than once appreared to be linked to filter clogging and cleaning.

They also mentioned the importance and necessity of maintaining an effective training strategy to ensure crew members can properly and safely operate the BWM systems.

ABS emphasizes training and testing operability face slightly different scenarios. In each case, ABS suggests operators to run at least a full ballast and deballast cycle, including a stripping operation and underlines to clean the ballast tanks before putting the system into service. And a final examination confirming that all the vital components are intact and functional is regarded as being essential.

Although it is tempting to have shipboard crews undergo training during testing, it is not recommended, as it can impact the result, adding uncontrollable variables to the testing.

Want to know more? Read the entire report here.

Source: https://www.maritime-executive.com, 14/8/2017.