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Top Tips: Can seagoing barges comply with ballast water regulations

- Top Tip Series: How seagoing barges may comply with ballast water treatment regulations

Seagoing barges can’t comply with ballast water treatment regulations…or can they?

In short, the answer is  yes, they can, however there are challenges.   

As many sea going barges are non-self propelled, there is  an absence of machinery space on board. Given this,  a standard retrofit installation of a ballast water treatment system is not an option. Indeed, finding adequate room within the machinery space on self-propelled barges may not be possible.

Therefore, an alternative to a standard retrofit is required, which points to a “boxed” treatment system mounted on the deck of the barge. This can be in the form of a permanently installed deckhouse system or a mobile containerised system.

Barge projects may not always require ballast water treatment and there will be times when the barge is standing by, awaiting a contract. For these reasons having a mobile containerised treatment system may be the most cost-effective solution, with one container shared between a small fleet of barges.  Taking this a step further it may be wise for owners with small barge fleets to consider a collaboration, so that one mobile treatment system can be shared between both companies.  

Operational ballasting during load out and load in operations can be an additional challenge on some barges. If the operational ballast tanks have retained some untreated residual ballast water from a previous location, then this residual water in the operational tanks cannot be pumped out in the new location. Treatment during operational ballasting is not a realistic option due to the high pumping rates, however if a suitable treatment technology is selected for the containerised system, it will be possible to use the system to flush or purge the operational ballast tanks prior to cargo operations commencing. This will ensure the barge is  compliant during load out and load in operations.

There are many considerations and some challenges, however compliance is possible with careful planning.

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Top Tips: How to mitigate risks when addressing BWM compliance

- Top Tip Series: How to mitigate the risks when addressing BWM compliance

In BWC’s first tip we mentioned that in a typical BWTS project, the scope of the project is wide and there are often multiple parties involved. Because of this, without suitable levels of project management, there is a real risk of the project becoming fragmented, disorganised and therefore over-schedule and over budget.

At the very outset of the project, the best course of action is for a vessel owner/manager to seek consultation from an impartial firm and determine – through a feasibility study – the most suitable BWTS technology and installation type in relation to a number of driving factors, namely: their operations, vessel requirements and constraints, required timescale and budget; and any other client specifications.

Beyond system selection, the study will investigate and determine the extent of engineering design work required for the installation. This encompasses aspects such as structural designs, general arrangement, pipe design, electrical connection, integration with auxiliary systems and not least of all, approval from the classification society. Lastly, in terms of fabrication, this activity is often sub-contracted to a firm local to the yard where installation is intended.

If successful co-operation between all of these parties takes place, the final installation stage is when this should pay off. All components must arrive on time (including, but not limited to, the BWTS); all fabrications must be complete and delivered; and concurrent planning of installation and class-approval processes must be adopted to minimise duration.

In a traditional installation project, testing and commissioning processes relating to the BWTS (but, again, not limited to) are generally only done once the equipment has been installed – this, again, poses a risk. If there are aspects of the installation which are not compliant to manufacturer installation specifications or class requirements, then re-work processes may be required – costing time and money.

One way of avoiding this risk is to opt for an off-site built ballast water treatment deckhouse or container. In this scenario, all engineering, fabrication, and approvals are completed in a controlled environment and system installation takes place off-site allowing for pre-testing of all systems prior to arrival at the vessel. This approach can reduce vessel downtime for an installation project so definitely an option to consider, if the vessel owner has the flexibility to accommodate a deckhouse or a container on board.

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Top Tips: Share the Cost of Ballast Water Treatment

- Top Tip Series: share the cost of ballast water treatment

Do you have a fleet of vessels that operate in the same area? Maybe Platform Supply Vessels operating in the same region servicing the offshore oil & gas industry, or Offshore Support Vessels supporting an offshore wind farm?

Whether OSVs, PSVs or similar vessel type if they are operating regionally, then there is a likelihood that they will operate in and out of the same 2 or 3 ports closest to the operation. These ports may be in the same country or split between a few neighbouring countries close to the operation.

If these ports are in the same country surrounded by the same body of water, then treating ballast water before discharge will not be necessary. However, if these ports are in different countries, then treatment will be required. So let’s say your vessel takes ballast water on in Den Heldert then, after returning from offshore, it needs to de-ballast this water in Aberdeen, then treatment before discharge will be required. The good news is, the cost of treatment for your regional fleet does not have to be a costly or laborious exercise, with considerable savings on offer depending on the location of your treatment system. Whilst one option is to fit units on each vessel, you could instead install a port based single stage treatment system in each of the 2 or 3 ports where your vessels operate, enabling your full fleet to utilise the shared assets when required. Given this, the bigger your fleet, the bigger the savings.

Limited ballast water pipe retrofit work will be required on each vessel to allow the port system to connect to the vessel’s ballast water line, however these costs coupled with the costs of 2 or 3 port based single stage treatment systems is significantly lower than the cost of having to retrofit every vessel in your regional fleet with a ballast water treatment system. Given this, the only real question remaining, is what ports would you like to select?

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Top Tips: Avoid the Ballast Water Treatment System Tsunami

- Top Tip Series: Avoid the Ballast Water Treatment System Tsunami

Technology providers and class societies alike have suggested that 2022 will be one of the busiest years to date, with regards ballast water installation activities! But what does this mean for the end user? We would suggest that to effectively meet D2 ballast water treatment deadlines, vessel owners should start their ballast water treatment plans this year, as early as possible.  Indeed, the requirement for vessel owners to commence planning of their ballast water treatment plans is even more pressing than before, if they are to meet their D2 ballast water requirements effectively and efficiently.

 

For many years now, there have been warnings of a forthcoming “BWTS Tsunami,” yet despite the troubling predictions, the majority of vessels are still not compliant, nor moving towards being so. This inactivity, coupled with the looming legal deadline, will result in a congestion of supply chains and yard services, ultimately leading to increased costs.

 

The project duration for a typical ballast water installation scope is driven by a number of varying factors (technology, manufacturer, installation type, location, etc) however in general, most tend to last around 8-12 months, from beginning to end.

 

Within this time, there are many activities to complete, with multiple parties involved, including but not exclusive to the initial consultancy and technology selection; engineering and class approval; BWTS production and delivery; fabrication and installation works; personnel training – the list goes on…

 

The increase in vessel owners, collectively rushing to be compliant, before the final deadline of September 2024 will undoubtedly result in an increase in this 8–12-month average. To avoid getting caught in this “Tsunami” it is important that all vessel owners turn their attentions to their BW management plans as early as possible and avoid unnecessary inflated costs.

 

Vessel owners may also counteract the potential congestion through the exploration of a range of compliance solutions. This may take the form of weighing up alternatives to a traditional installation (such as prefabricated deckhouses or ship-type service containers) or the utilization of mobile or port-based solutions. There are a myriad of contributory factors and end solutions to consider, each with competing benefits, costs, and timescales. Given this and the predicted wave that is approaching, the main advice we would dispense is to start your preparations now.