In a recent panel discussion for Riviera’s Ballast Water Webinar Week, Dr. Guillaume Drillet, Regional Manager at SGS, shared his views on the main reason for ballast water treatment system (BWTS) failures during compliance testing. Speaking on the webinar titled “BWMS commissioning testing: making it work in practice”, he said that organisms over 50 microns in size are responsible for clogging BWTS, subsequently leading to test failure.
His comments underline the critical importance of BWTS filters – the component responsible for preventing organisms from entering the tanks. Without a strong and robust filter, the effectiveness of the entire BWTS could be compromised, leaving manufacturers open to criticism from ship owners and operators, who must repeat unsatisfactory tests at a later date.
Selecting the right filter brings significant rewards to the shipping industry, from driving compliance, to preserving marine biodiversity and increasing operational efficiency.
Each BWTS and vessel is unique and faces its own set of challenges and specific stresses. These are impacted by the BWTS used and the conditions it must operate in. For example, there are challenging testing conditions in shipyards with poor water quality, shallow harbors with a high silt load, and difficult initial loading conditions. If a filter is unable to withstand these conditions and clogs, water flow through the BWTS will be limited or even prohibited.
Under IMO G8 requirements, filters must prove their ability to perform effectively in water with total suspended solids (TSS) up to 50 mg/liter. However, the threshold to pass this test is not reflective of water quality standards in some key maritime locations. For example, TSS in the Ports of Shanghai and Hamburg are twenty times higher than IMO G8 requirements for BWTS type-approval testing. This means high-quality filters that exceed IMO performance standards are critical.
Fortunately, filter performance in more challenging marine environments can be tested through the Control Union Shanghai filter test (Procedure CUW-HBR-P-2), which uses proxy mud up to and beyond 1,000 mg/L to test filter performance.
Size is part of the solution
In order to prevent organisms over a certain size from impacting BWTS and compliance testing, filters need to be engineered with a design that has effective mesh sizes.
Filtersafe use mesh sizes from 10 microns upwards, at flow rates from 50-5000m³/hr in a single unit. Using these fine mesh sizes ensures the system prevents organisms from entering or impacting the system by settling into the ballast tanks or clogging the system.
A filter capable of withstanding the highest TSS conditions found in the world’s oceans will provide confidence to shipowners that the BWTS will pass compliance tests in any port around the world. In its Shanghai Test, which simulates an excessively high particle load, Filtersafe filters did not clog, even when the test reached 2,500 TSS.
With compliance testing coming ever more to the fore, BWTS manufacturers, shipowners, and operators need to be confident that systems are capable of performing effectively throughout the lifecycle of the vessel across all marine environments, including areas where water quality challenges are acute. It is important to remember – mesh size matters.