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Powerful Lessons to Be Learnt From BWMS Operational Data

Ballast water management systems (BWMS) haven’t been the black-box solution that many shipowners had hoped for. They work, but as participants in a webinar hosted by De Nora and Filtersafe heard, there are outside variables that can make them challenging for managers and crew, especially if they don’t have quality equipment and adequate support from manufacturers.

Taking a look at some real-life case studies, the participants in the “What can vessel data tell us about BWMS commissioning & operation?” webinar (see full webinar below) discussed crew training, system commissioning, and striking a balance between power consumption and filter capabilities.

In one case study, crew operating their system for the first time found that while the portside pumping system worked as expected, the starboard system sounded the differential pressure alarm and shut itself down. Initially suspected to be a filter backflushing problem, the true cause lay in the design of the piping. This was only picked up by careful analysis of the system’s data logs by Filtersafe personnel who were then able to propose a workaround to the crew.

Why wasn’t this picked up during system commissioning? Sometimes both port and starboard pumps are not run simultaneously during commissioning – sailing schedules and crew availability can lead to such risks being taken.

In another case study, the crew complained that the filters were backflushing all the time – and the crew suspected that the culprit was the challenging waters in which the vessel was ballasting – but that ultimately wasn’t the cause of the problem. Rather, after manual cleaning, the filter was being reassembled incorrectly causing premature component wear. A further look at the data logs revealed another problem – an undersized airflow line. The problem was subsequently fixed on the vessel and also other vessels in the fleet.

It’s important that crews do not continually resort to bypassing systems. This would endanger the environmental objectives that ballast water treatment systems are designed to prevent: the spread of harmful aquatic organisms. One compliance issue which was highlighted is the proliferation of organisms in the ballast tanks, and therefore the criticality of emptying and cleaning the tanks regularly.

As an equipment manufacturer, De Nora provides intelligence and support to ship managers to monitor operations and avoid any issues that might frustrate crews. Furthermore, De Nora can help optimize power usage and reduce power consumption when ballasting in less-challenging conditions. This can be achieved regardless of treatment technology (UV or electrochemical dosing) and it can be done without risking schedules or compliance with D-2 standards.

Ballast water manufacturers, operators, and regulators have collected a lot of data so far during the experience-building phase of the regulations. It’s important to leverage this data to make sure shipowners – and regulators – can be confident that systems are working as intended when onboard a ship, and to make sure that ballast water rules have the positive environmental impact they were designed for.

The biggest takeaway from this data is that quality pays. Working collaboratively with quality, expert partners, and installing the highest quality systems is the best way to reduce operating costs, save time for both ship operators and crew, and deliver compliance.

Installing a cheap, low-quality system – where suppliers are not acting as technical partners – means buying twice, with almost certain costly failures and no tools to rectify them. And the ramifications of this will only become more extreme as ballast water is more heavily policed in the years to come.

And let’s not forget why ballast water treatment is so important! While significant attention is being given to finding effective solutions to the industry’s decarbonization challenge, the risks of invasive species remain real and dramatic. As we strive for a more sustainable future for shipping, environmental stewardship requires taking responsibility for both water and air alike.

Here is the full webinar with division in chapters for your convenience:

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