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MEPC 71 will be decision time for tankers

Tue 06 Jun 2017 by Paul Gunton

MEPC 71 will be decision time for tankers
July's MEPC meeting will be pivotal for the chemical tanker community

Chemical tanker owners are waiting for the outcome of the next IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee meeting (MEPC 71) in July before deciding when to fit ballast water management systems (BWMSs), according to Xavier Duval, business director at French water treatment specialist Bio-UV.

Bio-UV has proposals based on its Bio-Sea BWMS shortlisted for five fleets of such ships, amounting to about 20 ships. The technical discussions “were very good,” he told Tanker Shipping & Trade, but the owners will only make a final decision once the implementation schedule is clarified by MEPC, after which he hopes some of the proposals will move forward to become contracts.

Chemical tankers are a particularly relevant sector because their ballast lines run through their machinery spaces, which means that a BWMS can be installed in a non-hazardous area where equipment does not need to be ATEX-certified, Mr Duval explained. Bio-UV's system, which uses UV radiation, does not have that status, he said.

The proposals are based on systems rated at 300-800 m3/h, which can be supplied either in a turnkey skid-mounted arrangement or in a modular form, allowing components to be fitted where space is available. Studies are being made into a containerised arrangement, but that “is not a top priority,” Mr Duval said.

Larger tankers are not seen as a target market, he explained. As well as the need for ATEX certification, their larger ballast water throughputs mean that UV systems to treat those volumes would have to be large and high-powered, but tankers usually do not have sufficient generator capacity to service the additional load this would require, Mr Duval said.

Bio-Sea systems are available in sizes suitable for throughputs of 30-2,000 m3/h and use filtration as well as UV irradiation to treat the ballast water. Mr Duval expects that the application for US Coast Guard type-approval will be submitted towards the end of this year or in early 2018. He said that systems can be upgraded to meet the USCG requirements: the control software would be updated, but the flow rate will stay the same.

As IMO’s Ballast Water Management Convention (BWMC) approaches its entry into force, production is being geared up in anticipation of rising demand. Bio-UV’s factory is about 4,000m2. About two thirds of that is currently allocated to making BWMS components, such as UV reactors and power supply cabinets. The factory could produce up to 500 units per year, he said.

Building up a stock of components is part of a strategy to reduce lead time when orders are received. For fleet contracts, specific installation dates may not be known far in advance, so manufacturing is carried out in advance. But Mr Duval expects there will also be demand from owners who have not planned ahead and need a BWMS at short notice. To win that business, companies must be able to respond quickly, he suggested.

A BWMS company also needs global coverage, Mr Duval suggested. Bio-UV’s website references its French location and Mr Duval acknowledged that it has good relations with French shipowners, but he stressed that the company's focus is on global business through a network of partnerships. The most recent of these was established in April: Bio-UV has partnered with LTH-Baas, an Estonia-based engineering company with operations in Europe (including Scandinavia) and the US.

Like Bio-UV's other installation partners, LTH-Baas has been trained and certified by Bio-UV in how to design and fit a retrofit installation. Working with customers in this way is “a win-win situation for the customer, for us and for the partners,” Mr Duval said.

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