Op-Ed: Navigating uncharted waters for BWMS operations

Written by  
Mark Riggio of Filtersafe on BWMS

Mark Riggio, head of marine for Filtersafe talks BWMS.

By Mark Riggio, Head of Marine, Filtersafe

As the sun sets on the first quarter of 2022, the world may seem a more frightening and unstable place than it did three weeks ago.

While our thoughts and prayers are with our brothers and sisters in Ukraine, it is important that our industry does not lose our momentum in moving towards the twin goals of protecting marine environments and upholding struggling supply chains.

I have argued before that 2022 would be a big year for ballast water management system (BWMS) installations. With the September 8, 2024, deadline for D2 standard compliance looming, the proper operation of a newly installed BWMS is no longer a luxury—it has become a necessity for vessels to operate. The operational disruptions caused by inoperable or inadequate systems will only exacerbate the strains on our global supply chains. This is not an outcome that anybody wants, but thankfully it is not an inevitable one.


The first thing to emphasize is that this is a journey all shipowners must take—there is no scope for further delays, excuses or for turning a blind eye, no last-minute extensions. One of the primary takeaways from MEPC 77 last November was that there will be no blanket exceptions to ballast water regulations, even in ports with challenging water conditions, such as Hamburg or Shanghai.

This leaves shipowners with two choices. The first, is to attempt to negotiate for case-by-case exceptions. This is likely to be a time consuming and disruptive process, with no guarantee of success. The second choice is to ensure that you are fitted with an appropriate BWMS before you enter the port. A modest savings in CAPEX expenditure is entirely neutralized by the substantial OPEX costs of operational delays and failures.

Perhaps the simplest way of putting this is to say that fitting a high-quality BWMS is something all shipowners will do eventually. It is far cheaper and faster to get it done now than to wait until port authorities enforcing new regulations are knocking on your door.


Of course, fitting an appropriate BWMS is far easier said than done. The chosen system must be designed for the vessel’s particular operating profile and, where that profile requires travel to ports with challenging waters, testing to the IMO standards should be considered a good start, not the whole story.

At present, many ship owners are encountering clogging issues in ports with high TSS (total suspended solids). As well as causing significant delays to operations, such issues also leave operators vulnerable to being caught out for regulatory non-compliance.

Recently, we have seen several cases of owners retrofitting a high-quality filter as a ‘pre-filter’ to their existing system. Similarly, some owners have retrospectively fitted a filter to a filterless system in advance of operations in challenging waters. While these solutions have been successful in maintaining regulatory compliance and the smooth running of operations, it is a needlessly convoluted and expensive route to these outcomes. The far better choice is simply to fit an appropriate BWMS with a high-performing filter from the beginning.

To sum up, simply stuffing a Type Approval document in your certificate binder is no longer enough. Your BWMS must perform to meet the requirements of the Convention. Your choices are simple: install a system that works where you trade or face the consequences and additional costs of installing the cheapest system available. The BWMS and ballast water filter technology out there works, but only if you understand your needs and are willing to invest in the right equipment. When you consider this, the ‘choice’ is no choice at all.

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