Training critical to ballast water efficiency

Risks are reduced if seafarers are properly prepared

By Carly Fields

Only with proper training can crews operate ballast water treatment systems (BWTS) efficiently, ensuring regulatory compliance and minimising environmental impact.

Here, Øystein Myhrvold, a system engineer and former training and specialist engineer at Optimarin, a pioneer in BWTS, explains to The Sea the central role that crew training plays in ensuring the proper treatment of ballast water on ships, which if handled incorrectly, has the potential to cause significant environmental harm.

The main risk factors with ballasting operations in relation to the crew are incorrect or illegal operations, which can result in non-compliant ballast water operation, Myhrvold said. This incompliance can lead to major environmental damage, as well as financial consequences in the form of fines from port states for failing to adhere to the IMO’s Ballast Water Management Convention, a regulation that operators are required to follow. Additionally, improper operation can lead to equipment damage, which, in turn, incurs substantial costs.

Training is essential to ensure that operators are aware of and adhere to the laws and regulations governing ballast water treatment, Myhrvold says. “This compliance is crucial to avoid penalties and legal issues related to improper handling of ballast water.” Crew members must be well-versed in these regulations to ensure that their operations meet the required standards.

Proper training also equips crew members with the knowledge and skills needed to respond effectively in emergency situations, such as system malfunctions or non-compliance incidents. “This can prevent environmental harm and system downtime,” he said, reducing the risks associated with such incidents.

Effective troubleshooting

Crew members trained in system maintenance and troubleshooting can identify and address issues promptly, again reducing system downtime and preventing costly and unnecessary repairs. This proactive approach not only saves money but also ensures that the system continues to function optimally over the long term.

Additionally, adequate training helps crew members understand the importance of proper system operation and maintenance. This knowledge extends the lifespan of the equipment and reduces the risk of damage, making it a wise investment in the ship’s long-term operational efficiency.

Myhrvold shares an example from an Optimarin test. The company compared ballast water management on two vessels with identical equipment. They discovered that the vessel with higher maintenance expenses suffered from poor operation of the BWTS. However, by providing training for the crew, Optimarin was able to significantly reduce the consumption of spare parts and other resources, resulting in substantial cost savings. “If the operator understands the system and knows how its components work, this makes it possible to anticipate and quickly resolve issues so the BWTS can run effectively with low maintenance costs over many years,” he said.

Myhrvold highlights Optimarin’s commitment to providing high- quality training for BWTS operations. Optimarin has made substantial improvements in the content and accessibility of its training courses in recent years, offering training free of charge, making it accessible to all who need it. Its training platform is designed to be user-friendly, with an intuitive online portal that can be accessed through various devices, including phones, tablets, and computers. Crew members can also complete the course offline, addressing the issue of poor or no network coverage on ships.

Optimarin, founded in 1994 in Stavanger, Norway, was one of the first companies in the world to develop an environmentally friendly ballast water treatment system.