In Depth: With Portable Solution Ballast Water Is no Longer a Bottleneck

The times are gone that a green mindset is just for the idealistic ones among us. Those with a good business sense know that public demand and new regulations create opportunities for environmental friendly products. Take Damen. With their new portable ballast water treatment unit, they enter the market in the right moment.

Every ship has stowaways. They are couple of micrometres big, come with the millions and tend to hide in the ballast water. These organisms can travel anywhere they want, but the party will soon be over. With the ratification of the IMO ballast water convention, last September, ship owners have to take action to make sure that the ballast water that leaves their vessels does not contain uninvited guests that can disrupt local ecosystems. The industry will have to invest in ballast water management, creating business opportunities for those ready.

Perfect timing 

Damen is one of those companies. The introduction of the InvaSave, the first mobile ballast water discharge technology, couldn’t come in a better moment. Only days after the presentation of the portable unit the size of a container on SMM in Hamburg, the IMO announced the ratification of the ballast water convention.

The new regulations add even more importance to the InvaSave. It provides advantages that go beyond the environmental issue. “Not only ship owners can benefit from our product. Now port authorities and terminals can be proactive in the treatment of ballast water, ensuring a smooth course of events when a visiting vessel is not capable of treating its own ballast water, says Matthijs Schuiten. He is the main force behind the new product.

Schuiten is Product Manager Green at Damen Shipyards Group. He operates under the branch Damen Green Solutions. “Basically we are a company within a company, he explains. Schuiten worked for Damen when he presented his bosses an idea. Why not make a portable ballast water treatment unit and therefore flexible to use when and wherever necessary? The management of Damen liked the idea and gave him the opportunity to start.

Schuiten recognised that with the support of Damen as a leading shipyard and the location of three ballast water test institutes in the Netherlands, plus big ports nearby, it was an ideal environment for realising his dream.

Prove the product

But Damen didn’t give him a bag full of money. Schuiten had to prove himself and show that there was a market for the product. He approached other parties that could benefit from the realisation of the InvaSave. One of the early backers, Groningen Seaports, is now the first customer of the InvaSave. Other organisations who contributed in the developing phase were Royal Wagenborg, Van Gansewinkel, Imares and MEA-nl. The last one conducted all the necessary test according to IMO requirements. “With the help of these organisations I was granted a large subsidy.” This convinced Damen of the possibilities and Schuiten got the green light to develop the product.

At the beginning of the design process Schuiten and his team started with a few pointers. First of all the ballast water treatment unit had to be manoeuvrable. Also the aim was to make something environmentally friendly, so the process of eliminating unwanted organisms had to be done without the use of chemicals. The residue it produced after processing the ballast water had to be as compact as possible. The end product Damen Green Solutions had in mind was high tech, durable, superior treatment and easy to operate. “Plug and play, that is how I envisioned it,” recalls Schuiten.

The interior of the InvaSave
The interior of the InvaSave


Going for the container 

The team realised early on that it all had to fit in a container. “That is the shape people in the maritime industry know how to handle.” A container can be transported on a ship and with a truck. It can also stand-alone on the quay. “Some said this was impossible. They thought we never could fit all the techniques necessary in a container.”

It wasn’t easy, Schuiten admits. “You are building something that doesn’t exist. Untreated water goes in one side of the container; clean water comes the other end. We had to innovate and invent parts our self. The result speaks for itself. The InvaSave is the only technology on the market today to treat ballast water at discharge in one step.”

The InvaSave technology is based on continuous filtration combined with ultraviolet treatment. Sludge and sediment is dewatered and compacted in a secondary treatment so it can be further processed ashore. Treated water meets the ballast water performance standard specified in Regulation D-2 of the IMO Ballast Water Management Convention as an absolute minimum.


One InvaSave is not powerful enough to discharge a big container ship of its ballast water within reasonable time. Schuiten and his team knew this from the start. That is why they made the system modular. “If a ship is big or there is a time limit, several InvaSaves can be put together to increase the capacity,” says Schuiten. This can be done onshore, but also on a barge.

Although, with the new regulations in place, most ship owners are expected to comply with new ballast water regulations by installing on-board ballast water treatment systems, Schuiten has high hopes for the InvaSave. “It is an alternative for those owners that may not want to retrofit a treatment system.” This could be because their ships operate on non-exempted fixed routes or their ships are so old that the investment is not an option. “We believe that the InvaSave can make a real difference in ports. If a visiting vessel has problems with its on-board treatment system, it can clog the operations in a terminal. If there is an InvaSave around, it can help to discharge the ballast water so that the vessel can be unloaded. The business model to operate an InvaSave as a service provider in the port is very promising.”

Jaap Proost

This article was previously published in Maritime Holland edition #6– 2016.

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