In Depth: Interview: Things to Know about BWTS Installation

The implementation of the Ballast Water Management Convention (BWMC) has been a hot topic these days, especially since there are a lot of uncertainties surrounding the issue such as applicability dates, and installation costs, to name a few.

Following the BWM Convention’s entry into force on September 8, it is estimated that tens of thousands of ships will be required to install ballast treatment systems.

As we wanted to find out more about the installation process itself, World Maritime News spoke with Tom Perlich, President and Founder of Ecochlor. US-based Ecochlor, Inc. was founded in 2001 with the purpose of commercializing recently obtained patents for its ballast water treatment technology.

The Ecochlor® BWTS uses a two-step process that includes filtration and treatment with chlorine dioxide (ClO2). As explained, Ecochlor is the only company utilizing the patented chlorine dioxide (ClO2) treatment technology for ballast water and does not require treatment or neutralization on discharge. The company says that the technology is effective on all aquatic invasive species regardless of turbidity, salinity or temperature.

WMN: Could you explain to our readers the installation process in stages once the order is in for a system? What are the responsibilities of a shipowner and what of a system provider?

Perlich: A shipowner should plan almost a year for proper preparation. This would include but not be limited to: initial feasibility study, engineering/integration design, class approval, fabrication, and then finally installation and commissioning of the ballast water treatment system. In order to ensure it is a smooth process, it is essential to engage the vessel’s classification society early in the process. This can be arranged with an outside engineering firm specializing in ballast water treatment or the shipowner’s in-house team. Key stakeholders need to put together an experienced support team to facilitate planning of the project.

When the Ecochlor system is chosen by the shipowner, our engineers will work with the integration engineers to produce detailed engineering drawings. These drawings will provide the piping, electrical and structural pre-fabrication design. Once approved by the classification and flag society, these drawings will be used to develop a list of owner-supplied materials and Ecochlor will begin the production of the BWTS and any pre-fabricated parts for the treatment system.

Once the shipowner selects a shipyard for their BWTS installation, an installation team is put in place. A qualified and experienced retrofit team should include the superintendent engineer, marine engineers focused on integration and installation, the shipyard crew and representatives from the manufacturer. This is critical in allowing for an efficient, streamlined, cost-effective, installation process. The superintendent engineer should be fully engaged during the yard period and crew involvement is important to a successful retrofit and continued operations after the installation.

WMN: What time is needed to install a system?

Perlich: Through experience, we have found that for large tankers in Turkey or China, the installation can be performed over a period of 25 days while the vessel is at the shipyard undergoing repairs. This estimate assumes the shipyard is using a team with experience in the installation of the Ecochlor system; additional days may be needed for commissioning and training. Of course, for bulkers or smaller vessels, the time required for installation could be much less. Delays can be caused by other work projects, bad weather, holidays, etc. Time can vary significantly depending on the complexity of the vessel and other projects scheduled during the shipyard period.

WMN: From an engineering point of view, how difficult is it to retrofit a ship with a BWM system, and whether, and in what way does the new system affect the ship’s operability?

Perlich: Shipowners should be aware of the complexity of a retrofit beyond just choosing a treatment system and allowing time to schedule, not only shipyard time for the installation, but also engineering services with firms that are experienced in BWT installations, as well as time for design review and compliance with classification and flag societies.

Any BWTS will affect the operation of the vessel, as it will draw on a ship’s electrical power, integrate with the electrical controls and work alongside main ballast water pump. Many treatment systems also require monitoring during intake. Ecochlor’s automated system is crew-friendly and has very low power requirements, if not the lowest in the industry. Typical power requirements for a flow rate of 8,000 m3/hr is 12 kWh, with maximum requirements reaching only as high as 35 kWh, usually due to high turbidity ballast water sources.

WMN: The Ecochlor Ballast Water Treatment System is suited for installation on all ships, especially on large tankers and bulkers. Do you intend to focus more on this particular segment which involves bulk carriers and tankers?

Perlich: Ecochlor is targeting vessels with mid-to-high ballast water flow rates, typically 1,000 m3 /hr or more. The higher the flow rate, the better. For vessels with ballast water flow rates of 2,000 m3 per hour up to, and including, 16,000 m3 per hour, the advantages of the Ecochlor design (small size, low power) become more obvious.

Speaking on the most lucrative sector so far, Perlich said that a lot of activity has been seen from the tanker industry.

“With the convention’s entry coming into force, we are also generating interest from owners of bulk carriers that require a system that does not need treatment or neutralization at discharge, such as for example top side tanks. Ecochlor is one of the only technologies on the market fitting that criteria.”

WMN: How would you assess the demand for your products so far, what does the orderbook say?

Perlich: We have already seen significantly more activity from shipowners who are interested in securing the Ecochlor treatment technology prior to the BWM Convention entering into force. Our pending approval for USCG Type Approval has also played a large part in the increased activity in our line of treatment systems.

Since summer 2016, Ecochlor has completed the installation and commissioning on 12 MR Aframax or Suezmax tankers at shipyards in China, Croatia, Portugal and Turkey, another one is currently in progress, with 8 more in the planning stage for completion by the end of 2017.

We have also signed purchase option agreements that have brought our total order book to around 80 vessels.

Our expectation is that our market share will grow significantly, as we are in discussion with shipowners that have been waiting for us to reach this step in our USCG Type Approval process prior to purchasing a system.

Ecochlor filed an application with the USCG on March 31 for Type Approval for its BWTS, and it is currently undergoing a final review.

“We have spent three years and more than four million USD for supplies, testing and labor. These more rigorous testing protocols will finally give shipowners the confidence in performance standards of BWTS that they have requested,” Perlich said.

Asked about the major challenges in meeting IMO and USCG different requirements for BWMS, Perlich noted that USCG test protocols are generally perceived as more standardized and transparent than the IMO G8 guidelines.

“The expectation in the industry is that if a BWTS can pass USCG Type Approval then it will be accepted by a revised G8 criterion. Ecochlor does not expect any delay in bringing a system to market under the new G8 guidelines,”  Perlich added.

World Maritime News Staff; Image Courtesy: Ecochlor

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