New rules, new harbour service boat

The BWTBoat could bring a new type of harbour vessel into being
The BWTBoat could bring a new type of harbour vessel into being
A modestly sized treatment vessel could go from ship-to-ship, treating ballast water in situ
A modestly sized treatment vessel could go from ship-to-ship, treating ballast water in situ

The recent entry into force of ballast water regulations and the well-publicised tribulations of onboard BWT systems could give rise to a new kind of service and a different type of harbour boat.

What’s being proposed is that rather than treat ballast water onboard or even dispose of it at reception, ports could start to treat water on uptake.

According to Sandip Patil of the Indian Register of Shipping (IR Class), a modestly sized treatment vessel could go from ship-to-ship, treating ballast water in situ, a spot test allowing the BWTBoat operators to issue a quality certificate which should answer questions of reliability.

He explained that this BWTBoat wouldn’t need huge holding reservoirs itself as it would simply discharge into the ships own tanks, keeping the size of the treatment boat down to around 20m.

There are certain benefits accruing to this concept: according to Mr Patel, a lot of shipboard systems can fail simply because they have to deal with a wide number of different conditions, shipboard filters choke frequently, creating delays and even potentially affecting discharge compliance. However, the system onboard the BTWBoat “can be customised for the environment” he added. This extends to making efficient use of filters especially developed for particular waters, bulk procurement resulting in a fairly significant price drop.

Chlorine-based disinfection is the technology of choice, it’s a well tried solution and it can deliver a high flow; more, one treatment on uptake is sufficient as it continues its effect during the voyage: the water in the tank is turned into a very weak bleach that discourages regrowth.

It is a modular solution yielding a flow based on requirement. For example, providing an oil tanker with 50,000t of ballast would be best served by ten 500m3/hr units. Mr Patil explained: “Modular systems are always more cost effective and give better redundancy than the scaled-up version usually fitted on ships,” plus this results in a more flexible footprint on the BWTBoat itself.

Further, putting these systems onboard one boat is also far more cost effective than installing them on separate vessels, he pointed out, as you only need one control centre, not five. Likewise, there are savings to be made on circuitry and power generation, which could also potentially be delivered by batteries or LNG. The BWTBoat concept also takes advantage of high volume pumps which have seen significant development in recent years.

Obviously these service boats will, at least at first, need to be deployed at the main points on fixed or limited routes but it won’t be necessary at every facility – just at ballasting ports explained Mr Patil, and added it will be especially useful for high-sediment regions.

Overall, he said the sums work out well and the project is looking to attract investors. According to IR Class feasibility calculations, a port could charge between US$0.10 and US$0.50 per tonne of treated water, a figure that compares very favourably with the millions of dollars necessary to install a single system onboard a ship – let alone the operation and maintenance costs. A potential win-win for everyone concerned.

By Stevie Knight

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