ABS gathers data on ballast issues

Malcolm Latarche

05 February 2019

US classification society has been gathering feedback from ship operators at a series of ballast workshops in preparation for publishing an updated version of Best Practices for Operations of Ballast Water.

ABS recently issued questionnaires and hosted Ballast Water Management (BWM) Workshops, receiving feedback from across the globe from shipowners and operators with BWM systems installed onboard their vessels. The workshops were held in New Orleans, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore and Athens. Workshop attendees spent a large portion of the day reviewing the best practices that support successful BWM system integration, exploring both common and unique challenges resulting from different applied technologies, various ship types and sizes, operational and environmental conditions, operating frequency, crew competencies, BWM system maintenance requirements and feasible contingency measures.


To help focus discussion and drive the agenda, workshop participants completed a comprehensive questionnaire covering the critical aspects to consider in selecting, installing and operating a BWM system. Aggregated results allowed common issues – as well as any outliers – to be identified. In analysing the results from the gathered responses, it is clear that many in the marine industry are making efforts to get systems fully functional and in operation to meet US Coast Guard or IMO compliance timelines. Responses indicate that the number of completely inoperable systems has dropped from 14%, down to 6%, since ABS last conducted a questionnaire in Autumn 2017.

Key insights gained during the workshop include:

  • Incorporating ship-specific contingency measures within the BWM Plan helps avoid potential downtime and financial penalties;
  • System-specific training, both for shoreside support and ship crew, is critical for effectively operating and maintaining a BWM system:
  • Monitoring key data and operational trends and understanding system design limitations helps crew determine the suitability of the treatment technology for a vessel’s planned operational routes;
  • Vendor after-sales global support and expertise is critically important for uninterrupted system operation.

“As ships come into compliance with ballast water management requirements, it is important to consider some of the common system challenges and best practices for operating these systems,” said ABS Senior Vice President for Engineering and Technology, Derek Novak. “The responses we received from the owners and operators who attended our workshops helped us gain a broad industry perspective from around the globe, which we will use to develop and enhance our guidance to industry.”