UK shipowner and management company Carisbrooke Shipping has adopted a novel approach to ballast water treatment (BWT) compliance, installing its latest two systems from Optimarin during normal operations, with its own crewmembers, ensuring zero downtime and maximum efficiency and earnings. The firm, which controls a fleet of general cargo vessels from its base in the Isle of Wight, has just completed commissioning of its second “DIY” installation onboard the 8690 DWT Vectis Falcon.
Carisbrooke signed a BWT frame agreement with Optimarin in 2016, shortly before the Norwegian headquartered specialist became the first supplier in the world to receive full USCG approval for its market proven, UV-based Optimarin Ballast System (OBS). It has since completed installation of six systems, with the first four conducted during scheduled dry dockings.
However, according to Capt. Simon Merritt, Senior Fleet Manager, Carisbrooke, the team were keen to test a new approach for the last two – onboard sister vessels Vectis Falcon and Vectis Eagle.
“The Vectis ships are advanced, high quality vessels that trade frequently in US waters,” he explains. “Because US compliance dates are earlier than those of IMO, we had to install the systems before the vessels’ next scheduled docking, so we contacted Optimarin to discuss alternatives. It quickly became apparent that there was the potential for doing this ourselves, taking the simple, reliable system and – with some solid initial groundwork – installing it during scheduled operations, with zero disruption. The benefits of that were obviously very compelling, so we thought ‘yes, let’s go for it’,” says Merritt.
The “initial groundwork” Merritt refers to involved a process of thorough 3D scanning of the engine room, conducted by global engineering specialists Goltens. This provided the measurements that would dictate the positioning of the modular – and therefore easy to install in vessels with limited space – Optimarin BWT unit. Carisbrooke then contacted a highly regarded Polish manufacturer to make the required piping and foundations and, with everything in place, it was over to them to ‘get to work’.
“We made sure we had crewmembers with the mechanical and electrical competency to take on this kind of project, but,” says a candid Merritt, “it wasn’t really that technically challenging. In fact, I’d compare it to putting together a giant jigsaw. As long as you have all the pieces you need – and that’s where you have to get the pre-work right – then it’s just a question of focusing on the task at hand. It was surprisingly straightforward.”
Although Optimarin were always available to offer remote support, Merritt said the in-house team didn’t have to call on them. At all.
“We’ve developed a great business relationship with Optimarin, and they always bend over backwards to help us and accommodate any of our requests,” he notes, adding, “so we knew we had a trusted partner waiting in the wings. But, you know, ‘sorry guys, we’re okay on our own’! They sent on their own specialist engineers for the final commissioning, but other than that it was handled entirely in-house.”
The advantages of this were, the Carisbrooke executive stresses, enormous. Arguably the main factor was the ability to maintain scheduled operations and provide uninterrupted, high quality services to the firm’s global customer base. Zero downtime, Merritt says, obviously means zero lost earnings and optimal revenues.
“This was a decision that impacts upon bottom line, so in that respect it was business critical.”
As were the cost savings. By conducting the installation internally expenses were minimal compared to dry dock charges or port installation with third party contractors, but there were also further, more unexpected benefits.
“The piping,” Merritt notes, “that took us by surprise! When you have a vessel in dry dock the company running that facility has a ‘captive audience’, so they provide their own services and charge the rates that benefit their business, that’s understandable. But when you yourself have agency – when you can select your suppliers – you can be sure of getting the quality you require at a price that’s genuinely competitive.”
“So, to put this into context: When we conducted the first installations the costs for the pipework and foundation packages were four times what we paid with our own hand-picked, quality supplier this time round. We paid a grand total of EUR 22,000 for the entire package. A very significant saving,” he continues.
Sticking on the subject of money, the fact that Optimarin is a Norwegian-based firm also delivered unexpected benefits. The BWT specialists spoke to Carisbrooke about the potential of Norwegian Export Credit funding – whereby loans are provided through the Norwegian state to help companies purchasing home-grown products and services – assisting them with the application process.
According to Merritt, the first four system installations were facilitated by this funding – “with loans at very preferential rates” – and the company is currently in the process of applying for support related to the next six. In total, Optimarin systems will be installed on 26 ships within the fleet (the remainder have legacy systems, largely from previous vessel owners).
“The funding has been, and will be, a real benefit,” he says. “I’d encourage anyone in the industry purchasing from a quality Norwegian supplier, such as Optimarin, to look into it.”
Optimarin, for its part, seems equally satisfied with both the Carisbrooke installations and relationship.
Tore Andersen, EVP Sales and Marketing, says, “The team did a magnificent job on the installation work, leaving our own engineers to conduct a relatively straightforward commissioning routine and ensure everything is in place on both Vectis ships for long-term performance, reliability and compliance.”
“Carisbrooke are a very valued customer and we’re delighted that they find our established and industry proven technology so simple to work with. At the end of the day this company has been focused exclusively on BWT solutions and innovation since 1994, dedicating ourselves to supplying systems that protect the environment, surpass requirements and meet the demands of owners and operators worldwide. We want to take the strain out of BWT, making compliance easy for everyone. It’s hugely gratifying to see it’s been such plain sailing for our friends at Carisbrooke!” concludes Andersen.