The BWTS Retrofit Challenge

Half of the world’s fleet is still in need of some form of ballast water treatment system (BWTS) to be fitted in order to be compliant with the IMO Ballast Water Management Convention (BWMC). Challenges still lay ahead for the industry in making sure that they select and have the right system installed.

Although the BWMC came into effect in September 2017 it still awaits a number of vessels to adopt the technology needed to make them more environmentally friendly. Whilst newbuild vessels already have this technology implemented, there are many vessels sailing that need to have this technology retrofitted.

However, the challenge may not be so great, as time has rolled on waiting for the BWMC to be ratified, it has given the industry time to familiarize itself with the technology. Lianghui Xia, Managing Director, Newport Shipping explains that “It is a well-known and mature technology. Shipyards are already doing this type of installation with a normal drydocking.” 

With this technology now largely considered as mature and tested by shipowners and operators in the industry are expecting to see a surge in BWTS retrofits in the coming couple of years. However, retrofitting a BWTS requires time and the industry is being urged not to delay in having systems fitted.

A key factor when it comes to retrofitting a BWTS is the planning. Xia highlights that whilst the actual practical installation of the system may take a short time, it is the planning and obtaining of the drawings that takes time. Another factor is the lead time from equipment suppliers as the yards need time to plan before the vessel’s arrival.


What does a retrofit project look like?

The process of installing a BWTS can be broken down into five stages which are, the determination of BWTS, procurement of the BWTS, planning, followed by the procurement installation and then the installation.

The determination stage is where the BWTS is chosen. In this stage various BWTS are scrutinized under a selection criteria based on needs (classification, flag state, visited port authority requirements, capacity, type etc.). When chosen, contact with BWTS manufacturers is made to determine the best options that suit the criteria, and then an evaluation is carried out of the best candidates.

The procurement stage covers contact with candidates for quotations, a questionnaire to determine best equipment options for each manufacturer, obtaining a quotation for a solid scope of supply. A final decision is then taken in respect of awarding the contract to the manufacturer/equipment supplier.

At the planning stage a more detailed appraisal is carried out for the installation of the BWTS. It will include inspection, site engineering (structural, pipe, electrical, electronical inspections, 3D scan etc.), design engineering (transferring site data to digital platform, arrangement plans, structural, piping, outfitting,  bill of material, pre-fabrication drawings etc.), class approval of design (submitting produced design document to class), determining the best schedule for installation and decide installation method (at sea or at shipyard).

The final two stages of the procurement installation and installation are where yards or workshops are contacted for quotations in preparation for the installation. At the installation of the BWTS commissioning and demonstration to owner along with class and operational verification, and approval by class is carried out to ensure that the system operates in compliance with the regulations.


Why is BWTS important for the industry?

The industry is under pressure to green up its act. A flurry of environmental legislation has impacted it over recent years, pushing it to go further to cut its emissions and to become more environment friendly. The BWMC came in to being as evidence became available that invasive species were reaching damaging levels in protected parts of our seas.

In order for vessels to be able to operate in areas where the BWMC applies the vessels will need to step up to the environmental challenge and have BWTS fitted or find a compliant solution to handle its ballast water treatment. Xia notes that having a BWTS is “like having a driving license. It gives you a license to sail in regulated waters.” 

As a stakeholder Newport Maritime Services (NMS) is contributing to environment protection in its support existing market technologies and ensuring NMS’ customers are being provided with access to the optimum solutions for their needs. Cost will be a major factor for a lot of shipowners and operators. Xia highlights that shipowners/operators need to consider their tactical and strategic requirements and ensure their preferred final BWTS has USGC approval.

Through its turnkey solutions NMS removes the worry from shipowners and operators by providing a full project management tool. Whilst NMS provides access to a list of reputable BWTS manufacturers it also has flexibility to allow customers to use their own preferred suppliers.