USCG: Don't expect BWMS to be "plug and play"

DECEMBER 5, 2017 — Shipowners who expect ballast water management systems to be "plug and play equipment" are in for a disappointment. That's the word from Rear Adm. John Nadeau, assistant commandant for prevention policy.

In a recent post on the Coast Guard's Maritime Commons blog, Admiral Nadeau writes that owners who recently built ships and wrote BWMS specifications into the contracts with the expectation that, upon delivery, there would be sufficient space, power, and piping available for a future "plug and play" type system are now frustrated that the selection and installation of a BWMS requires additional work specific to the ship and its operating profile. Others expect a system that will "plug and play" into their operations and be effective under all conditions wherever they operate around the world. The different treatment technologies employed by the various BWMS manufacturers each have unique features and operational requirements that must be satisfied in order for the equipment to function properly. Owners should expect that fitting a BWMS to a specific vessel will require a thorough analysis of the vessel's engineering systems, cargo operations, and trade routes.

While consultation with specialists and contractors may help vessel owners and operators meet this new challenge, it may not be appropriate to completely outsource this work and expect a "plug and play" capability. A more realistic expectation is that the selection, installation, operation, and maintenance of a BWMS will require analyses specific to the vessel and its operating profile. Every BWMS installation is a customized installation, and every ballast water management plan (BWMP) is a customized plan.

To comply with the regulations, vessel operators may have to modify the vessel design operations and, to some extent, their technical and logistical support operations. Some ships will require more extensive modifications and support.

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