What key questions are owners and operators asking about ballast water treatment systems?

The issue of Ballast Water Treatment Management – systems, engineering, retrofitting, etc. – is one issue that is impacting the commercial marine industry in a big way – especially as it relates to the financial impact owners will face to incorporate design changes so that their BWT Systems meet Coast Guard and IMO regulations.

We continue to hear buzz from our contacts within the shipyards – or directly with the owners and operators themselves – that there is a good deal of uncertainty within the industry as to what needs to be done with current systems.


The 4 main questions we hear are:

1.)  Do I have to do this?

2.)  What do I have to do?

3.)  How much is it going to cost?

4.)  How do I manage and operate the system?


1.)  Do I have to do this? Yes, owners and operators are required to comply, but the timing depends on the vessel size and when it is being built. See time schedule below.

The United States Coast Guard (USCG) has made it mandatory on all new vessels after December 2013, but the unratified International Maritime Organization (IMO) convention says it should be from Dec 2012.

There is the possibility that a ship built now that doesn’t have it in place could find itself in a legislative hole when the IMO convention does get ratified. The IMO convention will be ratified eventually, though its note clear if it will happen this year or next, but the USCG is absolute so if you are trading in and out of US waters you must have one of these systems.

2.)  What do I have to do? Refits don’t have to be done until first drydocking after January 2016 (both USCG and IMO). This gives owners and operators time to prepare – both in terms of engineering planning and financial planning. If you are working on a new build project you need to select an approved or approvable system now.

3.)  How much is it going to cost? Cost will depend on the size of the vessel, the ballasting requirements and the cost of engineering services to implement a new system or retrofit and existing system. Costs can range from USD 250,000 on the very low end to USD 5 million on the high end, but the majority of vessels will be in the USD 500,000 – USD 1.5 million. These are per vessel prices. An owner with a fleet of vessels will be facing a sizable investment. Many owners are beginning to research options and it’s obvious that cost will be a major factor in the decision process.

4.)  How do I manage and operate the system? Different systems have different requirements. Some systems are relatively simple to operate and manage. Other systems involve more crew interaction. This will probably be a factor in the purchase decision along with the system cost and engineering costs. There are a number of IMO approved new ballast water treatment systems, too many to discuss here in detail. It’s best to work with your marine engineering firm to talk through solution options specific to your vessel(s).

Owners and operators are continuing to ask these questions because they’re seeking clarity – especially as it affects financial planning and potential dry dock time. That’s something that we as naval architects and engineers can help owners with. We can help manage the process of finding answers, creating plans and determining efficient solutions to re-engineer existing systems.


Questions about BWTS from an engineer

To speak with Boksa Marine Design about marine engineering solutions to help your organization meet USCG and IMO ballast water treatment regulations, please contact us at 813-654-9800.


Boksa Marine Design is located near Tampa, Florida and provides engineering and naval architecture services to clients within the United States as well as around the world.

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