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Ballast water: New Rules & New Opportunities

Norway adopted a new regulation effective July 2010 enforcing ballast water exchange off its coast. The measure is an intermediate step ahead of the International Maritime Organisation’s Ballast Water Convention requirement that all ship are able to conduct ballast water...

If this is not possible, the exchange can be done 50 nautical miles and at 200 metres water depth. If this, too, is impossible, the exchange can be done in defined exchange areas along the coast as long as the ship does not deviate significantly from its course or, at the very least, before the ship arrives in Norwegian territorial waters.

As a kind of last resort due to safety reasons, ballast water can be exchanged at berth. That could be the case, for example, for a car carrier that returns with an empty load from Japan into a Norwegian port where stability issues could be at risk.

The next step will be for all ships to have ballast water treatment onboard by 2016, based on the adoption of the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments in 2004. Newbuild ships will have to have the ballast water treatment equipment installed, while older ships have time to delay doing this as long as the conversion takes place before 2016.

The North American comb jelly fish was introduced to the Black and Azov Seas, causing the near extinction of anchovy and sprat fisheries in the 1990s.
© Øystein Paulsen, Institute of Marine Research


Mandatory Ballast Water Treatment

In March 2007, Norway became one of the many nations to sign the convention. It will come into force 12 months after its signing by 30 nations representing 35% of the world merchant shipping tonnage, assumedly by 2016 at the latest. With the most recent accession by Malaysia, the Ballast Water Management Convention has now been ratified by 27 countries representing 25.3% of world tonnage.

“There is a realistic hope that the ballast water convention will be signed probably way before 2016,” said Tor Christian Sletner, Norwegian Shipowners’ Association head of section for the environment.

The reason for the new rules is the potential environmental and hence economic threat. The IMO has recognized the introduction of invasive marine species into new environments by ships’ ballast water, attached to ships’ hulls and via other ways, as one of the four greatest threats to the world’s oceans. The problem is the result of the expanded trade and traffic volume during the last decades. The IMO estimates that about three to ten billion tonnes of ballast water is transferred globally every year.

Some examples of such damage include the introduction of the European zebra mussel from the Black Sea to western and northern Europe and the eastern half of North America, which led to billions of dollars used for pollution control and the cleaning of fouled underwater structures and water pipes. Another was the introduction of the North American comb jelly to the Black and Azov Seas, causing the near extinction of anchovy and sprat fisheries in the nineties. The comb jelly also invaded Norwegian waters in 2006.

Wilhelmsen Ship Equipment’s ballast water treatment system Unitor Water Treatment System passed IMO final approval this year and received Type Approval by the South African Maritime Safety Authority.
© Wilhelmsen Ships Equipment


New Opportunities

The IMO adopted the new convention to address these challenges and prevent the potentially devastating effects of the spread of harmful aquatic organisms carried by ships’ ballast water. The convention will require that all ships implement a ballast water and sediments management plan. All ships will have to carry a ballast water record book and carry out ballast water management procedures up to a given standard.

This has inspired the industry to come up with new solutions and it has generated new business opportunities. According to a study by US consultancy Frost & Sullivan, there could be USD 30 billion in investments for ballast water treatment systems based on 57,000 maritime vessels that will require that a ballast water treatment system is installed between 2009 and 2020.

One example is Wilhelmsen Ship Equipment’s ballast water treatment solution Unitor Ballast Water Treatment System (UBWTS), which passed a major milestone in March when it was awarded final approval by the IMO at the Marine Environmental Protection Committee meeting in London. UBWTS also received type approval in August by the South African Maritime Safety Authority. Wilhelmsen Ships Equipment will supply UBWTS to Wilhelmsen’s two newbuilds under construction at Hyundai Heavy Industries.

Another success story is Stavanger-based OptiMarin, which signed an exclusive distribution agreement in July with Allweiler to win major future offshore support vessel ballast water treatment contracts, estimated to peak at NOK 400 million per year for the next four years in the Norwegian offshore shipping market. Allweiler is an international supplier of commercial marine pump units and packages, while OptiMarin is a provider of BWT solutions. They estimate around 500 supply ships in the Norwegian market will have to be retrofitted with BWT systems by 2014.

“The sale and installation of BWT systems represents one of the biggest business booms the ship equipment industry has ever witnessed when the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments comes into force,” said Kaare Johansen, Allweiler chief executive. “It is our impression that few owners are aware that BWT systems are mandatory as of 1 January 2010 for all vessels constructed (i.e. keel laid) and which have a ballast capacity of less than 5,000 cubic metres.”