The Retrofit Bandwagon

Malin Group Ballast Blog, Malin Blog, News

Chris M

Numerous companies are now claiming to offer ballast water management (BWM) retrofit engineering assistance – but how many of them are truly capable of doing so? Are owners being offered truly impartial compliance advice?

September 2016 was a busy month in the world of ballast water management (BWM). The long awaited BWM Convention was finally ratified, and the fabled United States Coast Guard (USCG) Type Approval applications were finally submitted by a number of BWM manufacturers.

At long last, the proverbial line in the sand has finally been drawn.

However, September was a busy month for another reason – the hitching of seemingly every marine (and often time’s non marine…) consultancy in the world to the “BWM Retrofit” bandwagon.

It is not an uncommon phenomenon – when Apple first released the iPod, numerous electronic manufacturers rushed to release a competitive product. However, despite the enormous market potential, none of the competitor products came close commercially, or technically, to what Apple was offering. They were unimaginative, lacked innovation and, ultimately, were simply trying to shamelessly capitalise on the market potential, without any focus on customer needs or requirements.

The ballast water management retrofit market is no different.

Consultancy after consultancy, shipyard after shipyard, is now claiming to be the “next big thing” in BWM engineering assistance. Given the current climate in the marine market – it would be unfair to criticise companies diversifying, but does weeks of research and a cobbled together marketing campaign create a trustworthy engineering partner?

It takes selflessness and commitment to guide owners through the compliance options available. It takes a wealth of experience and knowledge to navigate owners through the BWM system selection process, and it takes innovation and skill to engineer a cost effective retrofit solution.

But hold up…. the focus shouldn’t just be on retrofitting! Afterall, regardless of their rarity, there are other compliance options available. Any engineering partner worth their weight in salt should be exhausting every other compliance option before resorting to retrofitting. Their single goal should be about minimising the cost implications for the owner, not maximising their revenue from the retrofit market.

But how many owners have been offered this level of honest, impartial advice? How many engineering partners offer truly impartial advice full stop? Owners must ensure their engineering partners are examining every compliance option out there – and if retrofitting is the only option – then they must ensure that all technologies and BWM systems are being considered – not just those offering an attractive incentive to their engineering partner!

Indeed, in the interests of transparency, owners should make sure to ask their engineering partner if they have any incentives or commissions in place for specific BWM manufacturers.

Owners must also ensure that their engineering partner is capable of engineering a cost efficient retrofit installation. Anyone can push a button on a 3D laser scanner and produce attractive visual renderings – but efficiently engineering with the sole goal of minimising the cost for the owner, is a different capability, and, in many cases, a different commercial mindset, altogether.

Finally, owners must ensure that their engineering partners have a robust team and network in place to meet the demands of this industry. The sub-contracting of critical surveying or 3D laser scanning elements to regional, unproven “partners” is a false economy and introduces significant risk for the owner, all in the name of maximising profits. Ensuring an engineering partner provides dedicated personnel to the compliance of every individual vessel, from start to finish, is a recipe for success.

Let’s make this about the owners – not about the bottom line.

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