Shipowners that are dragging their heels in installing ballast water treatment (BWT) systems in an effort to save money could end up paying a much higher price in the long run, according to Newport Shipping’s managing director Lianghui Xia.

Only 20,483 ships have so far installed or have on order BWT systems that are required to meet IMO regulations for ballast water discharges, leaving around 35,000 vessels still without such systems as the clock ticks towards a 2024 compliance deadline, according to Clarksons’ World Fleet Register.

Xia believes shipowners may be waiting to carry out BWT retrofits to coincide with class renewal surveys and yard repairs for their vessels to minimise costs and downtime due to a yard stay.

Such installations also carry little economic incentive for owners as they are only required to gain compliance certification and do not improve the efficiency or lower the costs of ship operations.

“But there is now an increasing urgency for shipowners to act as an expected boom in demand for BWT system retrofits over the next few years will create a serious bottleneck in yard capacity, pushing up prices for equipment and installation work,” Xia says.

“There is therefore a serious risk that owners will be forced to carry out sub-standard retrofits using less competent suppliers with a lack of after-sales support.”

Conventional wisdom among shipowners has tended towards procuring the cheapest equipment to maximise profitability but this could turn out to be a false economy due to possibly higher BWT system maintenance – or even replacement – costs in the long run, according to Xia.

“The price of a BWT system is only one part of the cost equation when selecting a supplier as a shipowner must also take into consideration overall lifecycle costs of the equipment, as well as voyage cost, retrofit cost and the duration of the yard stay,” he says.

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