Selecting the right supplier is important in any equipment investment. But it has special significance in the marine industry, where global operations and long periods away from port make access to support and spare parts more critical. Likewise, it makes a difference in ballast water treatment, where some type-approved systems already struggle in operation. As the rules and their interpretation grow even stricter, choosing a less established or less forward-thinking supplier may have serious implications.
Retaining type approval over time
In September 2017, the USCG made clear that a ballast water treatment system’s type approval certificate must be updated if the manufacturer changes hands. Moreover, the system cannot be operated, maintained or repaired with parts that are not included in its type approval. If a manufacturer ceases to exist and no one else acquires the technology, the type approval will expire after five years – leaving no possibility for new parts to keep existing systems in compliance.
Naturally, the issue extends beyond the availability of spares, which might be scavenged from a scrapped vessel in a worst-case scenario. If a supplier disappears, access to qualified support for working with the system may disappear as well.
Supplier readiness for tomorrow’s needs
The uncertainty is compounded by the fact that many suppliers of ballast water treatment systems currently lack a global service network or a clear idea of how service will be provided. Some of them are newcomers to the marine industry, with little operational experience at sea.
Likewise, it has become clear that not all type-approved systems meet the IMO D-2 performance standard in practice. This is one of the reasons for the 2016 revised G8 guidelines, which are more in line with today’s stringent USCG standards. Though the revised G8 guidelines will enter into force in 2020, some suppliers have yet to begin testing their systems to ensure they can meet the new standards.
In fact, only one supplier has successfully completed the new testing regime and received type approval according to the revised G8 requirements. Alfa Laval PureBallast 3, the third generation of Alfa Laval’s ballast water treatment technology, was type approved by DNV GL on behalf of the Norwegian Maritime Authority on 2 February 2018.
Confidence in both supplier and solution
For ship owners considering their choice of ballast water treatment systems, the message is clear: there is every reason to seek out experience. An established marine supplier with a stable and well-developed global service network can provide significant peace of mind.
If both the supplier and the solution itself are prepared to meet the needs of the future, that peace of mind is all the greater.