Lessons learned

Best practices for BWMS operation

September 8, 2024 signals the final deadline for compliance with IMO ballast water regulations. This may sound like a lifetime away—but shipowners shouldn’t rest on their laurels when it comes to implementing a system and strategy. We present a selection of best practices when installing and operating a BWMS.

Most of the global shipping fleet will, at some point before the aforementioned date, be required to plan and deploy a type-approved ballast water management system (BWMS). With no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution available, some shipowners have been left scrambling in murky waters. Adhering to these best practices can relieve the stresses of compliance, and guide operators toward the straight and narrow.

Planning and preparation prevent penalties

Identifying the most suitable type of system for your vessel is one of first steps in the lengthy decision-making process. With systems of varying operational costs, footprints, and methods to treat the ballast water, careful deliberation is necessary. In a previous article from Engineering at Sea, we detailed some key considerations for when selecting an appropriate treatment system.

Manufacturers and classification societies, like the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS), are urging shipowners to create detailed timelines for the planning and implementation stages of BWM. The ABS has reiterated this in its own guide for best practices, which itself can help shipowners map out the process, mitigate costs, and minimize downtime.

Also, it’s vital to think about vessel category, operating profile, and ballasting requirements – these will all determine which type of system will provide the best result. Improper or rushed selection can lead to a host of problems that can lead to non-compliance, a loss of chartering opportunities, and, of course, extended downtime for further retrofitting.

SKF has a website dedicated to the topic of ballast water. For all the latest advice and information on the subject, follow the link.

Ship-shaped to comply

Within the crowded BWMS market, there are around 100 systems available. As it stands, shipping companies are seeking type-approved units to speed up the selection process.

For many crew members worldwide, abiding to a plan to manage and record ballast water operations will be unchartered territory. It is therefore imperative that time is allowed for extensive training – for both crew and shoreside support providers – and also that manuals for operation, maintenance, and safety are all provided by the manufacturer. As most crew members will be tasked with operating a BWMS. it’s imperative that manuals should be clear, concise, and available in the appropriate languages. The OEM should also detail any spare parts, how they should be stored, and exactly how to repair and maintain the BWMS.

Shipping companies are looking to providers that can assist ballast water regulation compliance. Desirable for shipping companies are full-service providers that can advise on system selection, based on all the determining factors, as well as providing relevant after-sales services. Some suppliers’ service extends to providing detailed onboard surveys, using 3D scanners to map out the installation space. The initial costs of these types of services pay off quickly by creating a saving in future with regards to the design and installation process.

All stakeholders should involve themselves in the installation approach. This will ensure everybody has a good understanding of how to operate the treatment system itself. Where possible, it is recommended that at least two service engineers are present for the installation of a BWMS.

Commissioning consideration

A well-conducted commission of a BWMS can create savings for a shipping company. This should include maintenance walkthroughs and testing. All crew members should again be present for the commissioning, ensuring their competence.

Operation and Reparation

A ballast water management plan (BWMP) should be scrupulously adhered to in order to avoid penalties. All data should be properly recorded in a system that can be easily updated and kept on file for at least 12 months, should your BWMS be inspected. This kind of information should be easily extractable and examinable. Data should also include all relevant ballasting information: including ballasting intake, salinity, functionality and limitations of the BWMS, and weather conditions. Not only does this reaffirm your abiding to regulations, it can also help in identifying operational trends and behavioral trends of your BWMS.

Proper maintenance of your BWMS can ensure prolonged shelf life and compliance with ballast water standards. Some systems may require the use of consumables, such as chemicals or specialized cleaning materials. Keeping a constant stock of such items is imperative to proceedings.

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