BWMS by design

Considerations when implementing a BWMS

For shipping companies, ballast water management is an ever-increasing challenge in view of stricter regulations. More and more treatment technologies are entering the market, supporting shipping companies with more options for compliance. But there are many factors to consider when searching for the right one.

Ballast water management systems (BWMS) are advancing—technologically and in prevalence. They provide shipowners and operators with a greater choice of technologies to treat ballast water. But just like ships, not all BWMSs are the same and choosing the right type requires consideration.

When selecting a BWMS, it’s wise to look for a type-approved system. However, this does not always guarantee compliance with regulations laid out by the IMO and the US Coast Guard. The real challenge lies in selecting a BWMS that conforms to the specific technical and operational requirements of the fleet. As well as seeking appropriate, type-approved systems, operators might consider partnering with reputable vendors that have a strong track record and can provide certified systems.

A matter of size and space

Size is an important factor when selecting a BWMS. While UV-based treatment systems are relatively space-saving, BWMSs of all kinds require additional equipment or piping which will take up more room. For instance, systems using electrolysis will mostly require additional components such as heating or salt systems. Chemical injection, on the other hand, often requires additional tanks or pumps to be installed. With limited space on-board, operators might find that services such as laser measurement and 3D scanning can be useful in determining how a system will fit.

Cost determined by more than product and installation

A key consideration when selecting a BWMS is, of course, its price. But there are many other costs that come during installation and throughout the system’s entire lifespan. Overall costs must also take into account consumables, power, and maintenance:

  • Consumables: Certain components of the system will wear out and need regular replacement. Any time a new part is implemented, it should also be tested and recorded in the log book so shipowners will need to plan for additional resources. If a treatment system treats ballast water using chemicals, it will also require a constant stock of the substance.  
  • Power: Systems with higher power demands will generate comparatively high operational costs. Chemical treatment, for example, has lower power demands as it only requires electricity to distribute chemicals in the ballast water.
  • Maintenance: In addition to initial installation or retrofitting costs, shipping companies must take into account that equipment such as UV lamps or dosing pumps will require regular upkeep and spare parts during their service life. This could also require monitoring and sampling equipment.

Many shipowners opt for suppliers with experience and expertise in ballast water management that also offer a specialist service and after-sales support. These can therefore offer a ‘plug and play’ type approach to installation or retrofitting, reducing waiting times and training efforts. Partnering with a supplier with a maritime background helps ensure that systems are installed efficiently and maintained properly throughout their lifecycle.

Making sure crews are ship-shape

For ballast treatment duties to be carried out, extra training should be implemented to ensure safe and reliable operation. With some systems, safety is a key consideration as potentially harmful chemicals may have to be stored on board. However, as crews are often rotated, this can be a challenge. It is important to take crew training into account to ensure ballast water is being handled in accordance with ship-specific and governmental regulations. The ballast water management plan (BWMP) is drawn up by the shipowners themselves. A BWMP records ballasting and deballasting activity, supports crew training and displays the system-related tasks that personnel must perform. This can include operating the treatment system, handling any active substances used to treat ballast water, and cleaning and maintenance of the system and tanks.

Learn more about ballast water management

SKF now has a website dedicated to the topic of ballast water to further support shipping companies with advice and information. Take a look here.

Putting your BWMS to good use

When sourcing a BWMS, shipping companies have a lot to consider such as size, cost, safety and crew training. And after finding the right system, there is then the challenge of sourcing a supplier that can offer a specialist service throughout the entire system lifecycle—starting from installation. With a system that suits your needs and a properly trained crew to carry out general upkeep, you can make ballast operations more efficient and cost-effective. As a result, vessels are prepared for upcoming stricter regulations and can contribute to protecting marine life.

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