Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Bulk Freight and Container Ships Must Address Scourge of Ballast Water Alien Invasions

Norwegian Groups Sign New Agreement as Energy Sector Takes Treatments on Board
Shipping News Feature

NORWAY – WORLDWIDE – Ballast water is a bête noir of the shipping industry with bulk freight and container vessels particularly affected with their need to constantly adjust draft and balance as they load and offload cargoes around the globe. The damage caused by alien organisms has tragically been illustrated too many times and the potential for harm has made the topic high on the agenda of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) as well as other regulatory bodies around the world. In 2009 the US authorities began banning certain ships and fining owners millions of dollars for careless actions.

Species invasion can decimate an entire aquatic environment and these days any such pollution is not only unacceptable but completely avoidable with the new technologies available to combat the problem. By 2016 every vessel on the globe which carries ballast water will need to have adequate ballast water treatment (BWT) systems aboard and functioning.

A study last year in the Great Lakes for example showed eleven species of bryozoan statoblasts, innocuous looking creatures that filter water to feed. This represents an astonishing 12% of all the types of these creatures known yet many simply shouldn’t be there and nobody knows the long term effects on the natural flora and fauna. One similar creature causes the affliction known as ‘Dogger bank itch’ which affects trawlermen in the North Sea. Many other invaders produce a more immediate and serious set of consequences.

Vessels involved in oil and gas exploration also exchange large quantities of ballast water across the globe and it is in this climate that a framework agreement was signed this week between two Norwegian groups, water treatment expert Optimarin, and DOF which runs a fleet of seventy five specialist vessels, principally involved in supplying offshore and subsea services to the energy industry. DOF’s main areas of activity are the North Sea, Africa, Brazil, Argentine, Gulf of Mexico and Asia Pacific and therefore the chances of biological contamination into and from different ecological areas are a distinct possibility.

DOF says the agreement will save substantial time and cost of repeat negotiations, but, most importantly, it gives DOF contractual certainty while creating a structure needed to measure and improve fleet-wide BWT performance. The agreement establishes the terms governing contracts to be awarded within 2012 to 2015, in particular price and delivery. The bulk of the contracts are retrofit, but Optimarin confirms options for newbuildings. Tore Andersen, Director, Optimarin commented:

“Optimarin is optimal technology and a standardized BWT system solution. Our system is very modular, easy to install and requires a small footprint. These are key advantages when serving DOF’s retrofit demands where some installations will be made under vessel operation or during extremely tight drydock deadlines. This framework agreement initiates a long term relationship with DOF whereby we will be working closely together to deliver solutions to meet their operational demands.”

Photo: an example of a bryozoan statoblasts which, although tiny, can bloom to form thick gelatinous mats containing billions of creatures alien to their new environments.