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Facing the future: how ballast water manufacturers must react to … – Riviera Maritime Media

Andrew Marshall, CEO of Ecochlor, looks at the issues facing the ballast water industry and what needs to be done to ensure sustainability
When asked if I thought the ballast water management (BWM) industry was sustainable after the retrofit bubble passed, I had to respond ─ no, not as it stands today. The newbuild market will not be able to support the same number of BWMS providers and most certainly not where there are multiple duplications of the same treatment technology available. I just cannot believe that the industry is going to be able to maintain 20 UV vendors in 2025, can you?
Whilst manufacturers of duplicate technologies, ie, UV, electro-chlorination etc, are going to struggle, this will not a problem for Ecochlor because we have always had a clearly differentiated product from the get-go. There is a euphemism that says, “if you like the view from our bedroom window, you have to buy our house.” Thus, if you like all the benefits that the [Ecochlor] chlorine dioxide (ClO2) treatment technology gives you ─ simplicity, reliability, very low ClO2 dose, as well as very low power consumption ─ then there is not an alternative in the market; you have to buy our system. So, in some respect, our position as a survivor after the contraction of the industry is reasonably well assured.
From a technology approach, I think manufacturers should be continuously looking over their shoulders at what is coming up next in terms of legislation. And, one major regulation that is forthcoming, is the reduction of CO2 emissions from ships. You might ask, “in what way would my BWMS interact with the regulatory issues for emissions?” and my answer would be to look to the system’s power requirements.
Carbon emissions is one of the reasons why cold ironing is being pushed in a lot of ports. With the onset of CO2 reduction legislation, vessels will have to draw power from a shore cable when in port to run their operations, as opposed to running their own diesel gensets and producing lots of CO2. Clearly, if you have a BWMS that uses masses of electricity and you are forced to plug in, that is electricity you are going to have to pay for at a quite substantial cost. So, when these electricity bills start to arrive, ship managers will do their job, and their job is to reduce the cost of their vessel’s operation. They will be looking at electrical efficiencies, not just with BWMS, but with everything on board. Their goal will be to make the ship greener by selecting technologies that are inherently lower in power consumption, and as a result, lower CO2 generating.
“I cannot believe that the industry is going to be able to maintain 20 UV vendors in 2025”
Hence, any BWMS manufacturer looking to survive after the retrofit market is over should be looking, right now, to see if there is any practical way they can reduce their carbon footprint. (This is one of the things we took into account when we were developing our filterless EcoOne BWMS, with its super-low energy requirement.) The problem is that many BWMS technologies are inherently inefficient in the first place, and therefore, most of them have limited possibilities for reducing their power requirements.
At the end of the day, it could come down to which manufacturers have the deepest pockets and the strongest legs to not only do the R&D development for a greener product, but also get it re-certified for Type Approval if their systems are not already energy efficient. That is going to require a significant investment of money, not to mention time. If a manufacturer started testing tomorrow on a new system that was more efficient and greener, the regulatory agencies in all probability would require an entirely new Type Approval certificate for it. If that were the case, manufacturers would not see that product to market before 2025 and that is just too late!
Additionally, the cost of that research and re-certification will represent a significant barrier to product development for all but those which are the most committed to being in the market for the next 25 years. Nobody, with the retrofit phase nearing the end, will want to spend the money to engineer a more efficient version of a BWMS, especially since there will not be a return on their investment in terms of immediate sales. I anticipate that a system having low power requirements would be a significant benefit for most forward-thinking owners, and they will look to manufacturers that already have an energy-efficient BWMS on the market to ensure future environmental compliance.
“It could come down to which manufacturers have the deepest pockets”
Finally, I am going to pivot away from my thoughts on legislation and open up an entirely different conversation on BWMS sustainability through diversified business strategies. When the retrofit market winds down, manufacturers will all be looking at dwindling opportunities in ballast water treatment. As I stated before, the newbuild market will not support more than a few differentiating treatment technologies. Therefore, as an industry we need to be looking outside this industry to include a more diverse portfolio of products and services. It should be a red flag to any shipowner if a BWMS manufacturer is not planning and adapting, right now, for a future beyond the high-volume retrofit period. The good news is that this change is not going to happen overnight; there are still good opportunities for any BWMS company that has a strong business model and is savvy enough to survive.
As a company, Ecochlor is already capitalising on the next trends in the environmental marine industry. We are building a “Green Marine” technology platform with a number of partners and collaborations in the mix.
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