Early feasibility studies are recommended, notes Houlder's Ben Myers, as BWMS installations are expected to peak in 2022. (Image: Houlder)Early feasibility studies are recommended, notes Houlder’s Ben Myers, as BWMS installations are expected to peak in 2022. (Image: Houlder)

Equipment delays are just the short-term consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Deadlines for the Ballast Water Management Convention, which run up to September 2024, are so far standing firm, and flag states are only making extensions to deadlines if the shipowner or operator has made an order for a system. “As installation of systems is expected to peak in 2022, and with the delays caused by COVID-19, including the risk of second wave, it has never been more important to undertake an early feasibility study,” warns Ben Myers, Project Director, at the UK-based engineering firm Houlder.

Ship manager Thome is indeed advancing its planning for forthcoming projects, allowing greater than usual time for project executions and advanced booking with the shipyards. However, Technical Manager Rajiv Malhotra says authorities have been considerate in allowing extensions. “We have tried to minimise the disruption by falling back on remote engineering work and remote surveys, wherever feasible. While we anticipated that the pandemic might cause equipment lead times to increase and the deliveries to get delayed beyond the rescheduled timetables, such problems have not been encountered so far.”

In contrast, Paal Gunnulfsen, Regional Vice President Asia for Wilhelmsen Ship Management in Singapore, says: “We faced manpower issues as the lockdown and quarantine requirements have caused significant delays. This is especially so in the fabrication of pipes when factories are closed due to the lockdown. We see that 30-40 percent more time is required in some yards. Due to travel restrictions, we also faced issues in getting the attendance of commissioning engineers.”

ABS anticipates an additional backlog due to a large number of missed installation deadlines caused by vessels with planned dockings being forced to go elsewhere and unable to pick up their pre-positioned equipment. William H Burroughs, Senior Principal Engineer, ABS Global Sustainability, says the prospect is for continued, and perhaps expanded, use of ballast water exchange as a way forward for vessels missing their International Oil Pollution Prevention (IOPP) renewal survey deadline for D-2 compliance. “If the IMO could consider some flexibility for late-in-life vessels to continue D-1 for the last few years of life, some vessels could avoid early scraping, thus helping to avoid a shortage of vessels required to recover the global economy after the pandemic.”

Richard Mueller, CEO of engineering firm Choice Ballast Solutions, sees another concern: the industry’s newest engineers are missing out on important learning opportunities. “As long as the pandemic restricts access to vessels and other important meetings in the field, they will miss out on the hands-on experiences that are so important to growth in an engineer’s knowledge base,” he says. “If this access is limited in the long-term, it will eventually create a void in the market.”

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