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Checklist: What to look for in a BWMS supplier

Compliance with the BWM Convention is one of the biggest concerns for shipowners at present. With such a major investment at hand, it is crucial to be sure you are making the right decisions. And for ballast water management systems, the choice of supplier can be just as significant as the technology itself.

As the deadline for compliance with the BWM Convention approaches, shipowners are facing some big decisions. Retrofitting an entire fleet of vessels is a substantial investment with far-reaching, long-term consequences. As such, BWMS projects demand considerable planning, preparation, and commitment on the part of shipowners. But in addition to considering the design of the BWMS itself, shipowners must also choose a reliable supplier. Here are some of the key criteria to look for when choosing a BWMS manufacturer.

How extensive is the supplier’s support network?

Due to the global nature of the marine industry, support networks and spare parts supply are always a critical factor when selecting equipment manufacturers. This is especially true of ballast water management systems, where failure and non-compliance could lead to fines, delays, and vessel detentions. For example, if a BWMS is not functioning properly, the problem must be reported to the local Captain of the Port that the vessel is scheduled to enter next. There is then a risk that the vessel may not be permitted to call at this port. It is therefore absolutely necessary to choose a supplier that is backed by a global support network for repair services, troubleshooting, and spare parts. You should also consider the response times of the supplier. Finding a partner that can guarantee on-time installation and delivery will avoid unnecessarily long time spent waiting for spare parts and repair services. Ideally, the problem will be solved while the vessel is at the port or during its next journey. But if the problem is more serious, and the vessel needs to return to dock, a reliable supplier can ensure that replacement parts are ordered and arrive on time. This leads to substantial savings in docking costs.

From project launch to completion, a BWMS retrofit project could have up to 12 months’ lead time.  ship-technology.com

Has the supplier’s equipment received the necessary type approval?

There has been a startling number of operational issues and inoperable ballast water management systems over the last few years. At last year’s gmec (Global Maritime Environmental Congress) at SMM 2018, American classification society ABS revealed that 5% of the systems surveyed were deemed inoperable, while a staggering 44% had experienced “problematic operations”.

To avoid such issues and ensure compliance, comprehensive testing and type approval are necessary. You should look to a BWMS manufacturer that has had their system tested and approved in accordance with both IMO and USCG guidelines.

Does the supplier have a marine background?

The maritime industry is incredibly complex and heavily regulated, with ballast water management the latest in a series of far-reaching regulatory changes. This makes it all the more important to seek out a supplier with extensive experience in the marine sector. Manufacturers that do not specialize in this industry are unlikely to possess the necessary depth of understanding to reliably meet the strict regulatory demands.

Suppliers with a marine background also understand the processes behind installation, repairs, and spare parts delivery. Ideally, they will have access to a network of subcontractors and service providers, as well as contacts at companies that handle tasks such as installation. With these contacts, they are able to provide better support in service, planning, and preparation.

Is the supplier well-established?

As the compliance deadline draws closer, there is an overabundance of systems and suppliers to choose from. In such a saturated market, it is generally advisable to select a stable supplier with a long history and a proven track record. If, for example, a BWMS manufacturer were to go out of business, it could cause major complications for the shipowners—not only with regard to type approval validity, but also due to lack of support and spare parts.

Where can I get advice and other services?

An experienced and specialized marine supplier should be able to provide you with other services related to ballast water management, including crew training and specialist installation tools. Additionally, classification societies such as DNV GL and Lloyd’s Register offer a range of advisory services to simplify compliance. These include training and operational support for shipowners, as well as testing and type approval services for BWMS manufacturers.

As with selecting a system, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to choosing a BWMS supplier. However, finding a manufacturer that can meet the criteria listed above is an excellent starting point. For more information on BWMS selection, visit SKF’s dedicated ballast water management website.