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14 October 2019

BWM regulations and the Great Lakes

Ships exclusive to inland waterways are exempted from BWM regulations, but that might soon change.

In 1952, a marvel of civil engineering opened in the Soviet Union: a canal linking the Volga River to the Don River, and with it the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea. The world’s largest freshwater lake was open for business.

Across the world, a similar project was underway. On the border of Canada and the United States, engineers were busy digging a series of locks and canals that would, in 1959, connect the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean. However unlikely such a trip might have seemed, it was suddenly feasible to sail from what is now Kazakhstan, in the east, to Duluth, Minnesota, on westernmost point of Lake Superior, the world’s largest lake by surface area.

It’s hard to say how much cargo has traveled that route over the nearly 60 years since it became possible, but we do know of several passengers. Zebra mussels, the round goby, and the bloody-red mysid are three examples of fish native to the Caspian region that now thrive in the Great Lakes. They’re three of more than eighty species that have arrived in the Great Lakes in the ballast water of ocean-going ships. Those 80, along with invasives that have arrived by other means, cause more than $500 million in damage each year.

Balancing the ballast

How to keep invasive species out of the Great Lake is perhaps the predominant environmental concern in the region. Controlling ballast water stowaways will certainly help.

Globally, according to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), some 10 billion tonnes of ballast water are transported each year. One invasive species transported by ballast water is estimated to take hold in a new aquatic environment every nine weeks.

The IMO’s 2017 Ballast Water Management (BWM) Convention should slow the global spread of invasives, but the question of how to protect the Great Lakes is not yet settled.

The US is not a Convention signatory, for one thing. The country’s regulations on ballast water are broadly comparable to those of the IMO, but they do contain an exemption for “vessels that navigate exclusively on inland waters.” For regional environmental groups, this exemption is a big problem.

A freshwater fight

The trouble is that traffic on the Great Lakes isn’t limited to pleasure craft and an occasional ferry. More than 130 US- and Canada-flagged bulk carriers operate exclusively in the freshwater system between Lake Superior and Lake Ontario, carrying cargo between some of North America’s largest cities, like Chicago, Detroit, and Toronto. Several of these “lakers” are more than 1,000 feet long. Like their ocean-going counterparts, they maintain stability by taking on and discharging vast quantities of ballast water.

Though one might assume the ballast water in the hulls of the Great Lakes’ lakers would be fairly homogenous, a recent report from the University of Wisconsin-Superior suggests otherwise. The University—which also tests BWM systems for US Coast Guard type approval—found that ballast water in lakers could expedite the spread of invasive species already present in the region.

The report bolsters the push among environmentalists for lakers to fall under similar regulations as the oceans’ “salties.”

Industry leaders have pushed back. The Lake Carriers’ Association (LCA), an industry advocate in the United States, has called for more research, arguing that the UW-Superior report lacked a sufficient sample size. The LCA believes regulating lakers would be financially onerous, and a spokesperson claimed that the treatment chemicals used in some BWM systems could corrode the untreated steel ballast tanks that lakers use.

Recent regulations in the United States have given the EPA broader authority on BWMs, but the agency has yet to make a decision on whether to extend the lakers’ exemption. North of the border, however, regulation appears imminent. Canadian vessels currently benefit from a similar exemption as US-flagged lakers, but earlier this year, Canada proposed ballast water regulations that would “apply to Canadian vessels everywhere and vessels in waters under Canadian jurisdiction.”

US-flagged lakers might not even have to wait for the EPA, in other words. If they want to do business with Canada, it might be time to start looking at the different BWM solutions already on the market.

 

With deadlines on the horizon, we continue to produce content on the topic of safe and compliant ballast water management. Our aim is to provide detailed information and regulatory updates. You can also subscribe to ensure you’re kept in the loop.

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30 September 2019

BWM: On board and shipshape

Answering some FAQs regarding crew training for ballast water management.

Under IMO regulations, a ship’s ballast water management plan should include training and education on ballast water management practices and the systems and procedures used on board the ship. However, training can be a major challenge, especially considering crew changeovers and the wide variety of technologies and treatment methods on the market. ABS recommends regular crew training to help crewmembers understand how to operate the BWMS safely and effectively.

Will I always be compliant?

With BWMSs, there is no “one size fits all” solution for global compliance. As a result of differences between IMO and USCG regulations, some BWMSs have a “dual mode” feature. Outside of US waters, ships are able to use an “IMO” mode, which uses less UV radiation to treat the ballast water. However, if the ship later travels into US waters, the ballast water will not have been treated sufficiently to comply with stricter USCG regulations. Crewmembers should therefore be trained to know the differences between the two modes and understand when and where to switch between them.

Dirty water can pose another issue. Some BWMSs have flow controls in place, which significantly reduce the ballast rate to increase exposure time. In particularly dirty water, high filter back pressure may also affect ballasting operations. Crewmembers should be trained to understand the impact of such factors.

How can I ensure my BWMS doesn’t fail?

Ensuring the BWMS is fully operational is key to remaining compliant. Operators should be sufficiently trained to recognize, interpret, and understand any system alarms. This will reduce the time it takes to rectify the situation and help prevent system shutdowns.

At the same time, instruction manuals and software should be easy to understand. Operation, maintenance, and safety manuals (OMSMs) should be ship-specific enough to assist the crew, but not so complicated that the operator is not able to understand the vendor’s instructions. It is also recommended that the OMSM, and any crew training programs, are written in the crew’s native language as well as English.

How do I properly perform maintenance and repairs?

ABS recommends building a database to track maintenance activities and maintenance intervals. By recording failures, it is possible to identify trends that could lead to breakdowns. In addition, routine inspections of the BWMS can be used as an opportunity to identify areas that require attention and refresh crew training.

Consumables and spare parts, such as treatment chemicals and UV lamps, are another area where training is crucial. To prevent issues, crewmembers should know the replenishment lead times on spare parts and understand the shelf life of consumables. For some types of treatment technology, chemicals will be stored on board. In this case, it is essential that crewmembers are trained to handle the chemicals safely and use suitable protective equipment.

What happens if my BWMS does fail?

If a failure does occur, the root cause should be identified to prevent the issue reoccurring. Some BWMSs offer a degree of redundancy. For example, if a reactor fails on a modular system, it can continue to operate at a reduced ballast rate on “emergency mode”. IMO guidelines (BWM.2/Circ.62) recommend including clear and feasible contingency measures in the vessel’s ballast water management plan. Examples of the suggested measures include discharging to another vessel or shore facility or, as a last resort, practicing ballast water exchange.

16 September 2019

Biofouling: A sticky situation

Exploring the economic and environmental consequences of marine biofouling.


Aquatic invasive species (AIS) are now thought as one of the most harmful threats to our oceans’ well-balanced eco-systems. Costing the industry billions of dollars per year, the accumulation of invasive plants, animals, and bacteria on submerged ship surfaces is now attracting attention from regulatory bodies and shipowners alike.

Why are regulatory bodies intervening?

Biofouling has been a practical problem for shipowners ever since the first ocean-going vessels set sail. Whether a ship is docked or in transit, marine organisms will attach themselves to ship hulls and other areas below sea level, including the engine. Not only does this increase the wear and tear on ship hulls and propellers, it also increases drag. Vessels will travel slower as a result, use more fuel to compensate, and produce a higher amount of greenhouse gas emissions.

Some of the organisms that hitch a ride on ship surfaces are classed as aquatic invasive species (AIS). In fact, biofouling can carry a greater number of nuisance species than those dispersed through ballasting activities.

A bigger problem than ballast water?

Research has shown that hull fouling accounts for 35 percent of AIS in US waters, compared to 20 percent from ballast water. In some areas around Australia, as much as 80 percent of invasive species originate from ships’ fouled hulls.

Just one highly fouled vessel can carry up to 90 tons of growth, Source: Maritime Executive

Ballast water management continues to dominate the headlines but there is a growing awareness of the impact of biofouling. In 2011, the IMO adopted a set of biofouling guidelines to help provide a globally consistent approach. These recommend a set of best practices, including a ship-specific biofouling management plan and a biofouling record book. While these guidelines are still voluntary at present, they will be reviewed in February 2020, as agreed by MEPC 72.

For some local and national governments, regulation is moving too slowly, prompting them to develop their own unilateral regulations based on the IMO’s guidelines. New Zealand, for example, introduced strict new rules in 2018 to ensure that vessels have ‘clear hulls’ on arrival in the country. Vessels also have to submit information about their biofouling management practices, which can include anti-fouling documentation or records of hull maintenance work.

Collaboratively combatting biofouling

Numerous organizations are working together to find solutions to biofouling. In December 2018, the IMO launched the Glofouling Project together with the United Nations Development Programme and the Global Environment Facility. This project aims to minimize the risk of spreading invasive aquatic species by reforming policy and building partnerships. At the same time, the shipping association BIMCO is leading a group of eight organizations to create an international standard for underwater hull cleaning. Expected to be finalized in autumn 2019, the standard is intended to ensure a safe, effective cleaning process and reduced environmental impact.

While the search for solutions continues, DNV GL recommends a Biofouling Management Plan, in line with the IMO’s guidelines. Not only will this prepare shipowners for the potential arrival of newer, stricter guidelines, but it also provides economic benefits through better vessel performance and reduced fuel consumption. In any case, it’s safe to assume that biofouling will become increasingly relevant in the future.

*Estimated average efficiency loss due to deterioration in hull and propeller performance over a typical sailing interval. Source: MEPC 63/4/8

04 September 2019

What lies within

Revealing five invasive species that have been hitching a ride in ballast tanks across the globe.


Streamlining preparations for the new regulations

Understanding the regulations and the technologies involved in ballast water management will provide a crucial advantage in years to come. Our news articles keep you informed of important developments and changes.

Species that have been introduced to an environment that is not their own are known as invasive or alien. Global trade and shipping vessels increase the spread of such organisms and upset delicately balanced ecosystems—ballast water being the biggest vector for non-indigenous organisms. Therefore, the IMO’s Ballast Water Management Convention was set up to prevent the damage they can cause.

According to the European Commission’s Alien Species Information Network (EASIN), over 14,000 different species have been discovered in ballast water. Here are five of the more prominent and disruptive aquatic invasive species at a glance:

The Northern Pacific sea star is native to the coasts of northern China, Korea, Russia, and Japan. This starfish has invaded the southern coasts of Australia, as a result of ballast water exchange. With a huge appetite, it will eat a wide range of other organisms, and therefore poses a threat in its new home—specifically by eating the eggs of the endangered handfish. The starfish also tolerates a wide range of temperatures and water salinities and can carry up to 20 million eggs, giving it the potential to spread far and wide.

The European green crab originally came from Europe. However, it is highly adaptable and has now colonized Southern Australia, South America, South Africa, and coastlines in the United States. It is responsible for seriously depleting native species. According to the IMO, the European green crab has cost the American fishing industry millions of dollars.

The zebra mussel spreads via larvae in ballast water; it can also hitch a ride by attaching itself to ships and other solid objects. As well as decimating native fish populations and promoting the growth of poisonous algae, the zebra mussel can also damage water treatment plants by clogging pipes.

Comb jelly: Despite moving incredibly slowly, the comb jelly (or “sea walnut”) is one of the most notorious invasive species. Via ballast water, the comb jelly has managed to invade numerous non-native environments, including the Black Sea, Caspian Sea, and the Baltic and North Seas. Capable of eating ten times its body weight, it has had a severe detrimental impact on the fishing industry.

Cholera can quickly spread via ballast water, posing a serious threat to humans if ingested via drinking water or seafood It’s not only larger organisms that are causing problems! In fact, a cholera outbreak caused by ballast water discharge led to 12,000 deaths in Latin America.

22 August 2019

BWMS: installation irritations

How to overcome some of the common challenges of BWMS installation.


The process of implementing a ballast water management system requires plenty of thought – especially when regarding the physical installation itself. Before any work is carried out, a physical inspection of the BWMS’s possible location should take place. This can help in reviewing current arrangements and assessing any potential difficulties.

Many shipowners opt for a supplier that can provide expertise and experience to ensure the installation runs smoothly.

Planning prevents problems

In order to ready an entire fleet for compliance, shipping companies will often have to perform similar retrofits on many vessels. This means that first installation can act a ‘dress rehearsal’ – a trial run that facilitates a more efficient process in the future. That being said, a carefully planned timeline should be adhered to from day one. It will normally take between 6 and 9 months for the entire process – from system selection and design to commissioning – to be completed.

The limited amount of space available on board existing vessels should be carefully considered before installation. Systems with a smaller footprint are likely to be preferred as they can be installed much quicker and normally easier. Nevertheless, additional piping can complicate the process due to the space required for piping pieces and supports. To prevent such issues, a 3D scan of the machine room can facilitate the planning of piping, pumps, and other components. Using laser measurement, a service engineer can create a detailed picture of the area. This can also help determine accessibility for future maintenance. The information collected by a 3D scan will be included in a shipowner’s onboard survey, along with information such as the flow rate and pressure of the BWMS.

In some cases, it may be possible to install piping and other ballast water components while the ship is sailing, thus reducing time required in dry dock. However, the shipowner will have to decide when the system will finally be connected to the pumps. Connection to the ship’s control system can only take place while the ship is at rest and no electricity is running through the system.

Weighing up the impact

Installing a BWMS will have an impact on ship stability due to the increased weight. That is why, if a BWMS makes up more than 2% of the vessel’s total weight, an inclining test must be carried out. Classification societies such as DNV GL will request weight calculations and updated documentation to evaluate the total impact of the system. In any case, the weight and center of gravity of the BWMS must be recorded onboard.

Crew knowledge is critical

Chemical-based BWMSs bring additional safety requirements, such as safe storage of potentially hazardous chemical substances and protective clothing for crewmembers. Shipowners will have to think about how and where these can be housed on board – as well as considering the type of container and the material that they will be stored in. Handling such substances will also require special training.

Involving crewmembers in the installation of a BWMS, as well as explaining how ballast water is performed on the ship, can help prevent malfunctions down the line. This will help ensure that everybody is fully aware of how the installation, operation, and maintenance of the new system will take place. Effective training is absolutely crucial here, especially as crewmembers are prone to change and different vessels will utilize different technology. Operation, maintenance, and safety manuals can help overcome the challenge of transferring knowledge from one crew to another. However, these manuals need to provide sufficient definitions of routine maintenance and troubleshooting, offer ship-specific guidance, and be clear enough for operators to understand the instructions.

It is only natural that whenever new technologies are introduced into an industry, there is apprehension about the challenges of implementation. This is especially true if environmental standards and regulations come into play. Our ballast water basics website can provide clarity for compliance with IMO regulations. Be sure to sign up to our newsletter to be the first to receive all the latest news and industry insights.

23 July 2019

BWM: Best practices

Considerations when installing and operating a BWMS.


The final deadline for compliance with the IMO’s Ballast Water Convention will arrive in September of 2024. But that doesn’t mean that shipowners can rest assured when it comes to implementing a strategy and system to ensure adherence to the regulation. In order to alleviate concerns over the process, we present a selection of best practices when installing and operating a BWMS.

The key to compliance is planning

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.

The American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) has recently urged shipowners to create detailed timelines for the planning and implementation stages of BWM. ABS has also released a guide for best practices to help map out the process, mitigate costs, and minimize downtime.

Installation challenges

The market for systems to treat ballast water is crowded—there are around 100 different systems available and this number continues to grow. As it stands, the United States Coast Guard had issued 20 type-approval certificates to manufacturers that produce systems of differing technologies and capabilities.

For many crew members, maintaining a ballast water management plan (BWMP) and recording ballasting activity will be unchartered territory. It is therefore vital that time is allowed for extensive training—for both crew and shoreside support providers. Manuals for operation, maintenance, and safety should all be provided by the manufacturer. As most crewmembers will be tasked with operating a BWMS, it’s imperative that manuals should be clear, concise and if possible, in the working language of the crew. The manufacturer should also detail any spare parts, how they should be stored, and exactly how to repair and maintain the BWMS.

Shipping companies may choose to opt for full-service providers that can assist throughout the entire process—in selection, installation, and after-sales services. Some suppliers’ services extend to providing detailed onboard surveys, using 3D scanners to map out the potential location of a retrofitted BWMS. 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.

BWM in operation

A ballast water management plan 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. This kind of information should be easily accessible 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 and behavioral trends of the 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.

11 July 2019

Shipping forecast

Predicting the future of ballast water management, based on current trends and market activity.


As deadlines draw ever closer, we are highlighting three ballast water trends that we can expect to surface in the near future.

A clampdown on non-compliant vessels?

United States Coast Guard (USCG) officials performed 8,140 compliance exams in 2018. They hunt vessels with non-compliant or inoperable systems. USCG laws on BWM are stricter than those of IMO jurisdiction. It’s for that reason that we expect most penalties to occur in and around US waters. However in 2018, the VIDA agreement was passed by the US Senate which attempts to align US law with that of the IMO.

Individual vessels bear a unique deadline for compliance but MEPC 71 stipulates that the global shipping fleet must be fully compliant by September 8, 2024. The number of vessels to install a BWMS is expected to be around 70,000 but some shipowners are delaying their final decision as long as possible. It could be the case that many are choosing to prioritize compliance with the upcoming 2020 sulfur cap or that owners are deferring due to intimidating costs. Authorities and BWMS manufacturers suggest scheduling installation sooner rather than later—thus avoiding lengthy and costly downtime and the risk of non-compliance. The largest reported fine since the convention entered force was a penalty of $38,175 issued by the USCG in 2017. Although there is little news of any recent penalties, we expect the number of detentions and fines issued to rise as authorities make an example out of non-compliers.

Large concentrations of vessels at shipyard to cause delays?

As the IMO’s global sulfur cap is set to enter into force on January 1, 2020, it is understandable that some shipowners have had to prioritize emissions reduction. However, they should not allow themselves to be distracted from the complex matter of ballast water management.

Last year, the Ballast Water Equipment Manufacturers Association (BEMA) reminded the industry that deadlines were on the horizon. Although a long window for compliance was put in place to alleviate stress on shipyards, shipping companies are taking their time to comply. This will of course create increased traffic at shipyards around the world, not to mention a rise in prices as demand for BWMSs reaches its peak. That being said, the threat of non-compliance come deadline day should deter shipowners from delaying their decision-making for too long.

Ballast-free vessels to enter service?

Ideas of non-ballasting vessels predate the IMO’s standard-defining convention. Since the end of the 1990s, there have been several projects and extensive research on the possibility of ballast-free vessels. It appears that this could finally be realized, as pressure builds on operators and shipowners to be bold. However, for many, the prospect of ballast-free sailing could remain just that—a prospect—as it is not yet clear whether this approach is suitable for all vessel types.

This year however, the world’s first ballast-free LNG bunkering vessel was delivered by the Hyundai Mipo Dockyard (HMD). With a dead-rise hull and a twin propulsion system, the vessel boasts improved trim and heel without the need for ballasting. It is thought that a domino effect could now occur, as more and more shipbuilders receive AIPs for ballast-free concepts.

02 Juli 2019

BWM bottlenecks: Expect delays

A wrestle for retrofits is imminent, as an industry seeks compliance with ballast water regulations.


September 2019 will signal the beginning of a five-year window. During this time, a rush to fit ballast water management systems (BWMSs) could lead to bottlenecks at shipyards. From now until 2024, an estimated 40,000 vessels must have a BWMS installed to future-proof their operation and ensure compliance.

But what does this mean for shipping companies? Put simply: they must plan efficiently and implement a type-approved system sooner rather than later. When developing a strategy for compliance, there are important considerations that shipowners and crews should take on board.

Less haste, more speed

The road to retrofitting a BWMS is a long one and is vessel specific. Even deadlines are unique to individual ships, as they tie in with IOPP certificate renewals. What’s more, there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution. Systems must be carefully engineered to fit a vessel’s unique ballasting requirements, power demands, and size. To facilitate the process, some companies can aid in selection and installation, using 3d scanners to map out engine rooms. They can also train crews to manage the system, record data, and maintain the BWMS. These services can accelerate the entire process, which helps shipowners beat the rush to the shipyard and ensure swift compliance.

The installation of treatment systems is already set to cost the global shipping industry as much as $80 billion USD. That being said, a surge in the price of type-approved systems BWMSs could occur due to a rise in demand.

Queues in 2022?

Japanese classification society ClassNK has warned that in 2022, the number of ships booked for retrofits will reach its peak. As of August 2018, only 1,915 of 7,315 ships on the register had already installed suitable equipment for ballast water treatment. The remaining 5,400 are advised to install early to beat the rush.

However, considering recent ship-scrapping trends, bottlenecks could be alleviated. Some shipowners are choosing to retire aging vessels, rather than paying for BWMSs.

Scrubbing up

With more than just IMO and USCG regulations on ballast water to think about, shipowners are facing a compliance conundrum. The IMO’s long-awaited Global Sulfur Cap comes into force from January 1, 2020.

Shipyards are already stretched to accommodate the number of retrofits that the regulation demands. The Exhaust Gas Cleaning System Associate (EGCSA) has estimated that an around 4,000 exhaust gas cleaning systems will be installed by deadline day. The fact that over 60% of systems will be retrofitted and the average shipyard can realistically complete 50 retrofits in a year means that compliance with the global sulfur cap will put further pressure on shipyards and shipowners.

07 May 2019

A guide to finding the right BWMS supplier

When choosing a BWMS, it is crucial to consider the supplier. These tips can help you make the right decision.


There are many important criteria to consider when implementing a ballast water management system. As with any major investment, your decision will have a long-term impact on your business. For this reason, you should conduct a thorough evaluation of the system’s technical capabilities and design features. But in addition, you should also assess the BWMS supplier before making a decision. Choosing a supplier with these five qualities could help you avoid issues in the longer term.

1. Global support network

Access to an extensive support network is a decisive factor in the marine industry. For a critical system like a BWMS, it is essential to have constant availability of spare parts. If your BWMS runs into operational issues, you need to be able to rely on the supplier to provide fast support. Without quick response times, you could face serious penalties for non-compliance, such as fines, delays, and vessel detention.

You should therefore look for a reliable supplier that can offer a global support network for troubleshooting, repairs, and spare parts. Quick response times will help you avoid lengthy waiting periods for replacement parts and repair services, thereby saving expensive docking costs. The ideal BWMS supplier should be able to solve less serious issues while the vessel is at the port.

2. Experience in the maritime industry

Ballast water management and the associated regulations are extremely complex. Newcomers to the industry are less likely to be able to advise you regarding technical and regulatory matters. For this reason, you should seek a supplier that focuses specifically on the maritime industry. This way, you will have a reliable partner to turn to should you encounter any operational issues with your BWMS.

3. Industry connections

Another benefit of choosing a supplier with a marine background is that they are usually better connected in the sector. Not only do they understand the processes involved in installation, repairs, and spare parts; they also have access to a network of subcontractors and service providers. Thanks to this, they are better positioned to ensure that your BWMS is installed, maintained, and operated properly.

4. Type approval

To be on the safe side, you should make sure that the supplier has had their system tested and approved in accordance with both IMO and USCG guidelines. Systems that live up to both sets of standards are less likely to encounter compliance or reliability issues further down the line.

5. Advisory services and support

Most experienced, marine-specialised suppliers can offer additional ballast water management services. These can include crew training, specialist installation tools, and advisory services relating to compliance. Having a supplier with this level of knowledge can put you at a significant advantage when it comes to complying with ballast water management regulations.

17 April 2019

Choosing the right BWMS

With various treatment technologies hitting the market, finding the right ballast water management system to comply with regulations could be a challenge.


There are an increasing number of compliant and type-approved ballast water management systems (BWMS) on the market. But while this gives shipowners a wider range of options, it can be difficult to find the right solution.

The IMO and the US Coast Guard regulations make compliance a critical issue, but it is also essential to find a solution that fits the technical and operational needs of the fleet. Fleet operators must consider type-approved systems and partnering with trustworthy vendors that will provide certified systems.

Dimensions and capacity

The size and capacity of a BWMS can differ depending on needs. UV systems are relatively compact, but whether it is a small or a large system it will need additional plumbing. Electrolysis systems require heating and salt systems if operating in freshwater, while chemical injection systems use additional tanks and pumps. In the already limited confines of ships, laser measurements and 3D scanning may have to be used to determine if enough space is available.

Maintenance costs

Controlling costs is a key consideration when selecting a BWMS but other cost factors come into play during both installation and throughout the life of the system. Consumables, power, and maintenance can start to add up.

  • Consumables: Regardless of the system, parts will wear out and will need regular maintenance and replacements. New parts need to be both tested and recorded in the log book so that shipowners can keep track of parts and plan ahead. The same goes for chemicals which will have to be kept available.
  • Power: The energy consumption of a BWMS needs to be considered. Chemical treatment systems have lower power demands because they only need to disburse chemicals into the ballast water.
  • Maintenance: All equipment, whether it be UV lamps or dosing pumps, requires maintenance throughout its service life in addition to installation or retrofitting costs.

Qualified suppliers can offer a ‘plug and play’ approach to installation or retrofitting and after-sales support. This will reduce waiting times and expedite training efforts. Suppliers with experience in the maritime industry can guarantee systems are installed correctly and maintained during their lifecycle.

Keeping crews safe

Crews will have to be trained for safe and reliable ballast water treatment. Both safety and reliability are essential because with certain systems chemicals could be involved and storing them aboard requires caution. Even with the challenge of crew rotation, people need to be trained to handle ship-specific systems and governmental agency requirements. A ballast water management plan (BWMP) created by shipowners records ballasting and deballasting, supports crew training, and displays the system-related tasks crews must perform. Tasks can include operating the treatment system, handling any active substances used to treat ballast water, and cleaning and maintaining the system and tanks.

Safeguard marine life

Consider size, costs, safety, and crew training when choosing a BWMS. After finding the right system, the challenge then becomes sourcing a supplier that can offer a specialist service throughout the system’s lifetime, beginning with installation. The next step is appropriately training the crew to maintain the system, so it is efficient and cost-effective. When all of this is accomplished vessels will be prepared for upcoming regulations to further protect marine life.

29 March 2019

Testing the balance

Ballast water systems must undergo rigorous testing to be approved for use by international and local authorities. Here, we have gathered important information on requirements into one place.


With many regulations on ballast water management demanding approved methods and certified equipment, it is important for ships to assess their approach and systems. And this applies during system design, upon installation, and throughout continual operation. So, what exactly are authorities looking for? And what do you need to pay attention to in order to meet standards?

IMO standards: An international cause ratified by 60 countries

The first two regulations in Section D of the Ballast Water Convention, the Ballast Water Exchange Standard and the Ballast Water Performance Standard, demonstrate what the IMO looks for when assessing a ship’s compliance. According to Regulation D-1 of the BWM Convention, any vessel that performs ballast water exchange under this treaty must achieve an efficiency of 95 percent volumetric exchange. Those using a pump-through or flow-through method should pump water at a volume of three times the capacity of the ballast tank, though exceptions may be made if the ship can prove 95 percent efficiency. The D-2 regulation stipulates the number of viable organisms that are allowed to be discharged by ships performing ballast water management, depending on factors such as organism size. So, what does this mean for those searching for certification of systems?

Not all testing is equal—MEPC G8 and G9 guidelines

Under IMO, ballast water treatment technologies must be tested in accordance with the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC). Ship operators looking for information on testing methods and type approval for the systems they intend to buy should pay attention to Annex 5, regarding approval of ballast water management systems (G8 and G9). These offer clear definitions for testing methods and type approval parameters on where, when, and how ballast water management systems (BWMS) should be tested. The G9 guidelines specifically apply to systems that rely on active substances such as electrolysis or chemical injection whereas G8 guidelines apply to systems not using active substances.

For example, a system must undergo various testing stages for it to achieve final approval, including land-based testing and ship-board testing. Definitions for these testing stages are clearly outlined: land-based testing involves at least five successful test cycles per salinity, and for shipboard testing, three consecutive test cycles must be successfully performed, suitably separated across a six-month period. Each test cycle must be valid according to IMO approved methods and successful for it to be recognized.

The G8 guidelines were adopted in October 2016 and entered force with the BWM Convention in 2017. When looking to gain statutory type approval, the responsible party must make clear whether a BWMS installed before October 2020 was tested under previous or revised G8 guidelines.

Neither living nor dead? Definition differences in the US

Shipping companies operating in US waters should take note of an important difference in US to IMO regulations. US authorities currently do not accept most probable number (MPN) water analysis and insist that vital staining is used to determine the status of an organism, i.e. whether it is living. Where IMO regulations will allow a certain level of sterilized but still living organisms to be discharged by a system, the US Coast Guard (USCG) insists that they are killed outright. These definitions are however subject to change under the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA), which was introduced to harmonize ballast water regulations. Under this act, roles are delegated between the USCG and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Any ship operating in the US should be aware of these more stringent additional factors, especially when obtaining the Vessel General Permit (VGP) from the EPA. A VGP requires regular testing on ballast efficacy for which the shipowner or operator is responsible. While analytical monitoring does not need to be carried out in an approved laboratory, it does need to comply with EPA-approved methods.

It pays to have all the information

A BWMS and all its components must be tested to ensure it meets the regulations that apply in the waters it sails in. Failure to comply can lead to fines or even to a ship being detained in port by authorities. When testing or sourcing a BWMS, shipping companies should make sure to seek all important information on the guidelines set out by the relevant authorities.

20 February 2019

Weighing up BWMSs

Changing ballast water regulations are causing a stir throughout the marine industry. Different technologies are available, but what are the pros and cons?


The IMO’s Ballast Water Management Convention came into force in September 2017. Since then, the race is on for shipowners to implement their own ballast water management plan (BWMP) before deadline day. A BWMP will record how ballast water has been stored on board the vessel, taking temperature, salinity, and volume into consideration—as well as information on how ballasting and deballasting take place. New ballasting standards are phased in over time, however almost all ships will eventually need to install an on-board ballast water management system (BWMS). But with numerous technologies available, there are some important considerations to bear in mind before making a decision.

Ultraviolet lights the way

As shipping companies look to install and retrofit BWMSs, UV technology to treat ballast water has become the most popular option, making up almost 50% of global sales. These kinds of treatment systems offer an environmentally friendly solution, and due to their compact footprint, they can be easily installed into most vessels. Despite their versatility, they are more commonly installed on ships with low ballasting requirements, such as passenger ships and smaller container ships.

Electrolytic systems—a complicated route to compliance?

The treatment of ballast water by electrochlorination is also a common choice. Electrochlorination is efficient in larger water quantities and flows. This process involves the generation of hypochlorite from salt and water molecules that disinfect the water and eliminate invading organisms. Harmful hydrogen and chlorine gasses are generated during the electrolytic process. Some manufacturers combat these risks by developing hydrogen traps that can be added or installed at the same time as the BWMS. Another potential complication is that these systems rely on saltwater, which means they may require an additional brine tank on board for use in freshwater.

Considering chemical injection

Some BWMSs inject chemicals into the ballast water as a means of sterilization. They are an easy installation option as they require less space on board. However, harmful chemicals can only be handled by qualified staff, meaning that ship operators may have to implement additional training and store certain safety equipment. The total cost of energy is minimized due to low power requirements but a constant stock of chemicals is essential.

In both electrolytic systems and chemical injection systems, disinfection by-products may arise when the actives substances react with water compounds. Neutralising agents may be injected to neutralise residual oxidants, therefore reducing risk.

Deadlines on the horizon

It is important for companies to be aware of the limitations of different BWMSs. Considering operational factors such as holding time, water salinity, and water temperature only play a small part in the decision-making process. Ensuring that the system compliance, operational reliability and life-cycle costs are the main priorities for shipping companies. Installation must be planned under supervision from experienced consultants, BWMS manufacturer representatives, and class surveyors. A well-revised, collaborative installation will cost time and money.

In most cases, crew will need to be trained in order to operate the machinery or to handle certain chemicals or substances. Maintenance costs, ease of use, and system complexity are all things for shipping companies to think about when selecting a BWMS that is right for their fleet. And with compliance deadlines just around the corner, companies are being urged to implement their plans.

6 February 2019

VIDA: The new bill harmonising US regulations

On December 4, 2018, a new US bill was signed that will contribute to ballast water management efforts. The Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA) aims to provide clarity on the complicated and often contradictory regulations on ballast water management in US waters. How exactly will the new act affect seafarers?


Two authorities are in charge of regulating ballast water management in the US: the US Coast Guard (USCG) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). While the US is not a signatory to the Ballast Water Management (BWM) Convention enforced by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), these two bodies enforce similar regulations to ensure its waters are not polluted by ballast discharge. Both organizations monitor and regulate US waters to ensure ships are following guidelines such as the Clean Water Act.

BWM in US waters—complicated and contradictory

While the EPA and USCG have established policies, regional differences apply. Shipping companies may therefore find it difficult to understand which regulations are in effect in which waters. More than 20 states have additional requirements for ballast water discharge which further complicates—and in some cases contradicts—US and international regulations. And with further considerations and exemptions provided under the EPA’s Vessel General Permit (VGP), correct ballast water management in US waters can be a difficult challenge to master.

In order to harmonise the various regulations and help ship operators better understand how to efficiently discharge ballast water, the US is implementing VIDA, the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act. VIDA aims to delegate the role of establishing US standards to the EPA, and the role of enforcing these standards to the USCG.

VIDA: A simpler system for seafarers?

At the end of 2018, a new bill was signed with aims of providing a clearer, more coherent regulatory system for ballast water management in US waters. It aims to delegate the role of establishing US standards to the EPA, and the role of enforcing these standards to the USCG. It is likely this new act will also replace the additional guidelines set out by the VGP within 4 years. Until that time, existing VGP requirements will remain in force. This will help shipping companies follow regulations much more easily and find the information they need more efficiently.

Another key development laid out in this policy is the definition of “living” organisms. Previously, non-viable organisms (those that cannot reproduce) were considered “live” and therefore harmful to marine ecosystems. This resulted in ships, particularly those using ultraviolet ballast treatment systems, needing to increase efforts to dispose of these organisms. With VIDA in place, non-viable organisms are as good as dead with respect to regulations which should reduce the effort required to prevent invasive species entering the water. This will demand an outline of valid testing methods and protocols for BWMS (ballast water management systems), which the USCG has received 180 days to draft a policy for.

Clearer systems, cleaner waters

With 2-year gradual phase in of VIDA bringing more clarity and harmony between the EPA and USCG regulations, ships operating in US waters should find it much simpler to comply with strict ballast requirements. With this regulatory framework in the US and the IMO covering international seas, environmental damage associated with poor ballast water treatment should diminish.

18 December 2018

FAQs | Ballast water management systems

The Ballast Water Management (BWM) Convention entered into force in September 2017, signifying a landmark in maritime history. These FAQs give insight into the impact of the treaty.

What is ballast water?

When a vessel is in need of extra stability, balance, or structural integrity it will pump water into a tank stored in the ship’s hull. For example, a freight ship sailing without cargo will require extra weight in order to lower its centre of gravity and will take on ballast water to do so. Once its intended destination has been reached, the water will be released back in the ocean. This is where problems arise and why ballast water management is necessary.

Why must ballast water be treated?

As ballast water is taken on, thousands of organisms living in that water are brought on board. Many of these can survive the journeys taken by ships and consequently are released into ecosystems where they are not native when the ship reaches its destination. A prime case of organism transportation is that of the comb jellyfish (Mnemiopsis leidyi), which migrated from North America to the Black Sea via ballast water tanks. Having no natural predators, the arrival of this foreign specimen disrupted the existing fauna. The transfer of microbes in ballast water is also supposed to have contributed to a cholera outbreak in Peru, only reported previously in Bangladesh.

What rules apply to ballast water treatment and management?

There are differing standards to which certain types of vessel must conform. The BWM convention refers to all types of ships that use ballast water in international trading networks. Currently, there are two regulations, namely D-1 and D-2. As it stands, all ships must comply to regulation D-1. This is the minimum requirement. Ships are obligated to release their ballast water in ‘open seas’ at least 200 nautical miles from land and into water that is at least 200 metres deep. New ships are required to adhere to regulation D-2, which states that a type-approved system has to be installed in order to treat ballast water. Systems must sterilise or kill any living organisms contained in the ballast water tanks. Within D-2 regulations, ballast water may only be released if it complies with the following criteria:

  • less than 10 viable organisms per cubic meter which are greater than or equal to 50 micrometres in minimum dimension;
  • less than 10 viable organisms per millilitre which are between 10 micrometres and 50 micrometres in minimum dimension;
  • less than 1 colony-forming unit (cfu) per 100 millilitres of Toxicogenic Vibrio cholera;
  • less than 250 cfu per 100 millilitres of Escherichia coli; and
  • less than 100 cfu per 100 millilitres of Intestinal Enterococci.

Where can I find more detailed information?

The BWM Convention and USCG rules and regulations will continue to be an important issue for the next five years at least, as shipowners, shipyards, and ship operators attempt to find and implement compliant solutions. Stay tuned for more ballast water news.

3 December 2018

Ultrasound the future in BWM?

Many industries support the use of ultrasonic technology – but does it have a practical application in ballast water management?

Ballast water can ensure stability in navigating rough seas and when sailing without cargo. This water is typically pumped into purpose-built tanks onboard when required – then released back into the ocean when the destination port has been reached. However, ballast water tanks play host to organisms of all kinds which are being rehoused in foreign habitats.

This constitutes a threat to biodiversity and aquatic populations Therefore, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) is penalizing shipping companies that do not treat ballast water or dispose of their ballast water appropriately.

Ballast water managements systems in place

There are several ways to treat ballast water. The most common methods use electrolysis or UV radiation to eradicate all live organisms inside a tank. The problem is that although the IMO had certified more than 50 systems (as of 2017) based on these technologies, only a limited number have met the US Coast Guard’s requirements, which currently differ from the IMO’s. It is UV treatment that offers the best solution at present.

Safe and sound

Ultrasound has been recognised as a potential solution, to operate singularly or to be used alongside existing disinfection techniques. It’s proven to be beneficial as a cleaning tool and is used on solid, non-porous materials in a variety of ways including on medical applications, in sport, and in the automotive industry. Ultrasound is currently used in the marine industry to test for flaws in shipping hardware and components. Used to test porosity of equipment and to detect cracks or voids in laminates, this proves the flexibility of ultrasonic technology.

The future of ballast water treatment

Ultrasonic can complement other treatment methods in a ballast water management system. For example, it can be used to continuously clean UV lamps in a UV-based treatment system. This helps maintain optimal performance and eliminates the need to use chemicals to clean the lamps.

There are no known environmental concerns surrounding the use of ultrasonic frequencies in water treatment.

Some key benefits of ultrasound BWM:

  • Non-chemical
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Scalable to any size, in low and high doses
  • Synergetic with other treatment methods
  • Low maintenance
  • Safe and easy to use
  • Reliable operation
23 November 2018

Lasers and 3D technology supporting BWMS retrofits

In order to adhere to updated ballast water regulations, many shipping companies are overhauling their entire fleet. Laser measurement and 3D scanning technology help make the retrofitting process more effective and precise.

Coinciding with the Ballast Water Management Convention, ships from around the world must have a type-approved BWMS installed by 2024. For vessels built after September 8, 2017, this system is already mandatory. This will have sweeping repercussions for the industry as a whole as shipowners face large numbers of BWMS installations. Not only that, but some shipowners are currently retrofitting their fleets with scrubbers to clean vessel exhaust gases and achieve compliance with the upcoming global sulphur cap.

Significant retrofitting activity expected

The pressure is now on shipowners and operators to act and there will be a great increase in retrofitting activity in the coming months and years. According to DNV GL, one of the leading classification societies, “Compliance with regulations regarding ballast water management will be one of the biggest challenges for the shipping industry in the near future.” Due to the complexity of retrofitting a BWMS, shipowners and operators should look to suppliers that offer specialist services—ensuring that the system is installed safely and maintained properly throughout its lifecycle.

Targeting precise installation

Laser measurement is one of a number of services that help ensure correct installation for retrofits. If the shipowner or operator has already chosen a BWMS or a scrubber, a third party can conduct a dimensional inspection to check that the system matches the customer’s 3D model with the correct dimensions and tolerance. This helps prevent any issues and delays to the installation which would have a significant impact on costs.

But laser measurement and 3D scanning are also very useful in cases where the shipowner has not yet decided on the system they are going to retrofi . Using handheld devices, a supplier can perform a 3D scan of the engine room while the vessel is docked. To create a full picture of all the objects in the area, including piping, the service engineer needs to scan in different positions, walk around the whole area, and position reference points. Having done that, the engineer then combines the separate scans into a point cloud model that provides a full visualization of the engine room.

Support in times of change

With a detailed point cloud model, shipowners and operators have a comprehensive view of the space in which their BWMS or scrubber will be installed. This helps them form a clearer idea of how the system will integrate into the vessel. For example, they can see any obstructions and how much space will be available for engineers to carry out maintenance in the future. Services like these help companies navigate the challenges brought by upcoming regulato y changes and reduce the risk of costly installation issues down the line.

SKF Marine offers a special service for BWMS retrofitting. We have already completed several laser measurement assignments on behalf of other service providers. This service goes hand-in-hand with our new ballast water treatment system that is set to launch by the end of 2019. With 3D scanning and BWMS implementation from a single source, SKF Marine customers can reduce the number of providers involved in the retrofitting project, which streamlin s the process.

13 November 2018

A short guide to compliance and certification in BWM

Ballast water remains vital in ensuring stability and a centre of gravity in vessels. However, it can disrupt marine ecosystems due to organisms transferred from ocean to ocean via the vessel’s ballast tank. But how is compliance verified?

The governing body behind the BWM Convention is the International Maritime Organization (IMO) who have introduced a total 17 guidelines for ballast water management. But in US waters, regulations from the US Coast Guard (USCG) apply. At present, USCG requirements differ to the IMO’s, but governing bodies are currently working on harmonising these rules.

Documentation is key

As part of the BWM Convention, ships are required to be surveyed and certified. Certificates and documentation are absolutely vital for ship operators to prove compliance. Certification and papers include proof that equipment is type-approved and installed properly and a Ballast Water Record Book where all activities for ballast water management are recorded. Governing bodies and state control officers at ports are allowed to inspect the Ballast Water Record Book and other documentation. If they have concerns, they may carry out further inspections.

How can ship operators be penalised?

Should a vessel fail to comply with the updated regulations, they will likely incur penalties from the IMO or USCG. While a first-time offender may simply receive a warning from authorities, it is common for ships with poor practices to receive monetary fines. In extreme cases, port captains may restrict the vessel’s movement or cargo operations. This could lead to huge costs if a vessel must remain in port or experiences delays with cargo delivery. There is also a possibility of increasing how often a vessel must undergo examinations.

Investing in approved technology pays off

To avoid penalties from authorities, it makes sense for shipowners and operators to invest in type-approved equipment and ensure a vessel is up to date with all important documentation. In addition, shipping companies should consult laboratories to assess the effectiveness of their ballast water management systems as there are no tools available to allow a quick on-board test.

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SKF Marine GmbH
Hermann-Blohm-Straße 5
20457 Hamburg, Germany

Telephone: +49 (0)40 3011-0
Fax: +49 (0)40 3011 -1900

Editor in chief:
Svea Solley, svea-desiree.solley@skf.com