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Shortage of personnel to approve ballast water systems as convention looms

Shortage of personnel to approve ballast water systems as convention looms
A shortage of suitably qualified class society personnel capable of approving ballast water treatment system drawings could become a potential “show stopper”, according to system manufacturer Optimarin boss, Tore Andersen.

But he is confident that the Norwegian firm is better-placed than most, having successfully passed all of the US Coast Guard’s (USCG) tests and trials, with the first official USCG type approval expected within the next few weeks.

USCG type approval is a key differentiator, Andersen said. It gives customers complete reassurance that Optimarin’s UV/filtration system, suitable for ballasting rates of up to about 2,000 cu m per hour, meets the world’s strictest regulatory requirements. These include pumping rates, power requirements and a capability of functioning effectively in marine, brackish and fresh water.

The company’s potential market, following research by its analysts, comprises around 25,000 vessels, Andersen says, and it has already teamed up with marine engineering specialists Goltens and Zeppelin to assist on 3D engine-room scans, piping arrangements, detailed drawings and on-site installation if required. Andersen and his team have also taken the precaution of ensuring that suppliers will be able to cope with the surge in demand for systems following ratification.

The IMO Convention, probably requiring only one more signatory – possibly Finland – could tip over the 35% of global tonnage required for ratification within the next few weeks. Measured monthly in tonnage figures, ratification will give ship operators a 12-month window before suitable treatment systems will need to be installed at the next intermediate or special survey docking.

Andersen, however, is confident of Optimarin’s position in the market. The company has closed around 100 contracts so far this year, taking its total to about 480 of which some 200 remain to be installed. There is a strong pipeline of business, he says, with a range of other deals under negotiation right now. The company is owned by its employees, a branch of the Klaveness family and its local bank. It has no debt and “five to seven years of exponentially rising revenues,” Andersen said.