Optimarin first with US-certified ballast water treatment system

Optimarin's Andersen estimates his company will be able to supply 1
Optimarin's Andersen estimates his company will be able to supply 1

A milestone for ballast water equipment compliance was reached on 2 December when regulators certified equipment for shipowners looking to trade in the United States.

The US Coast Guard has given its stamp of approval to the Optimarin Ballast System (OBS) manufactured by Oslo-based Optimarin, thereby making available the only ballast water management system (BWMS) so far that meets the regulatory requirements of flag states that are a party to the IMO’s Ballast Water Management Convention, which was ratified in September, as well as the stricter testing standards of the United States.

The US Ballast Water regulation has been in effect since June 2012. The IMO convention goes into effect on 8 September 2017, after meeting the threshold for ratification in September 2016.

While shipowners who want to trade in the United States can continue to apply for an extension that will last up to five years, extension applications will require more documentation explaining why a vessel cannot comply with US regulations now that a US-certified system is available, the Coast Guard stated on 2 December.

The Chamber of Shipping of America, which represents US-based companies that own or charter tankers, container ships, and bulkers in international trades, has been waiting years for a US-approved system so that owners could choose to invest in a BWMS they knew would not have to be replaced by more compliant equipment.

CSA “commends the US Coast Guard for its professionalism and persistence in pursuing a US type approval program which will actually reflect to the extent possible, the performance of ballast water treatment systems once they are installed onboard vessels,” CSA president Kathy Metcalf said in a statement.

“This is a huge day for our company, and our customers,” commented Optimarin CEO Tore Andersen, noting that the United States “has the world’s most stringent testing standards, meaning that once a system has approval, it is assured of total global compliance, now and into the future”.

The aim of ballast water regulations is to prevent invasive species from moving from one region to another in the ballast water of ships that trade internationally.

Optimarin’s US certification for OBS came just over 10 weeks after the company submitted its final application to the Coast Guard on 20 September. The agency is currently evaluating two other BWMS for final certification, from Norwegian manufacturer Oceansaver and Sweden’s Alfa Laval.

OBS uses a combination of filtration and ultra-violet lamps – as opposed to a chemical-based system – and has been tested by class society DNV GL to USCG standards for fresh, brackish, and ocean water, according to the company.

Andersen told IHS IHS Markit that he expects a potential surge in sales now that OBS has been US-approved. The company will be able to supply roughly 1,000 systems per year, he said. Optimarin has already installed systems costing roughly USD300,000 per unit.

Industry analysts contend that with the ballast water convention coming into force next year, it could have the effect of accelerating the scrapping of old vessels as owners evaluate the cost of retrofitting their ships.

The other concern is the effect the regulation could have on shipyard capacity, both for scrapping and retrofits.

“We don’t think this will be a problem,” Andersen told IHS IHS Markit. “We’re confident there will be enough capacity in the shipyards, as well as enough supply [of ballast water systems] to meet demand, especially after the US Coast Guard approves more equipment.”