With the last deadline for ballast treatment system retrofits now pushed back to 2024, the chance of some of the system makers surviving as far as then are already remote but what are the implications for shipowners after that date? Choosing the right system type has already been an expensive mistake for some early adopters with evidence that some do not work as intended and others that do not work at all. Once the retrofit bandwagon ceases to roll, the newbuild market of just a few thousand systems each year will fall well short of being able to sustain all the current players. Speaking to most of them suggests that the consensus among system makers themselves is just 10 to 15. The problem for owners is deciding which of those among the crop of nearly 90 systems is the best investment. The recent financial collapse and resurrection of the OceanSaver system is a salutary lesson not least because of the clarification by the USCG of the consequences on type-approval status of a maker going out of business. If no new owner can be found for a system when a manufacturer ceases trading, the type approval will lapse if replacement parts exactly as detailed on the original approval documents are not available. That will mean that the whole system may need to be replaced by a new type-approved system. The financial commitment by a system maker to meet the new IMO type-approval process may also mean that some will see the market as a lost cause and cut their losses and withdraw as a small number have already done. As long as the maker continues to support a legacy system there will be no problem for the shipowner but how many will commit to doing that for 25 years or so remains to be seen? One that is prepared to do so is the UK-based Coldharbour Marine. Its system is one that treats ballast in the tank using a combination of de-oxygenation by way of an inert gas plant and micro-cavitation. However, it is designed for large vessels such as tankers and bulkers and the treatment time is around four days making it unsuitable for over 85% of ships.
Who will be the ballast survivors?
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