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The 7 Benefits of Ballast Water Management Feasibility Studies

Identification of the most suitable ballast water management system for a specific vessel is perhaps the most important aspect of any retrofit project. Thoroughly examining the technical impact of the ballast water management system options, as well as the commercial impact, as part of a comprehensive feasibility study, is of prime importance.

Yet, despite the importance, many owners and operators are completely bypassing the feasibility study stage and simply selecting the cheapest, or most readily available, system. From discussions we have held with various owners and operators, such an approach can be a recipe for disaster, and can result in ballast water management systems being installed that are completely unsuitable.

The benefits of feasibility studies are significant, and, certainly in the case of our own pricing structure, are incredibly inexpensive in the grand scheme of a retrofit project’s overall costs. Indeed, the value offered by the feasibility studies far exceeds their price point, making them a no-brainer for owners and operators. This article aims to highlight 7 key areas of the retrofit process where feasibility studies offer critical value.


1 – Reliable Score Based Recommendations

A good feasibility study will propose the most suitable ballast water management system for a specific vessel based on a sound and comprehensive scoring matrix. By doing so, the feasibility study removes any subjectivity or personal preference from the selection process, and bases the recommendation solely on the pre-determined, visible scoring criteria. This approach ensures the final recommendation is highly suitable for the vessel in question.

The scoring matrix itself should analyse each system option in detail, scoring each system against each of the relevant comparison markers, and formulating the most suitable option based on said scores. As a minimum, a ballast water management system scoring matrix should analyse:

  • Technical Suitability
  • Capital Expenditure
  • Operational Expenditure (where possible)
  • Corporate Viability of Manufacturer

Each of these comparison markers play a crucial role in the effectiveness of the feasibility study itself, as outlined in the forthcoming points.


2 – Deeper Understanding of Technical Suitability

There are many aspects that impact the technical suitability of any ballast water management system for a specific vessel, and a good feasibility study should analyse these critical points. By doing so, the feasibility study provides owners and operators with clear guidance on the technical implications of each option, and the resulting comparison score.

Ballast Pump Curves
Ballast Pump Curves

Technical suitability should, as a minimum, examine the following critical points for each ballast water management system option:

  • Trading patterns and system performance
  • Existing pump capabilities & impact on performance
  • Power availability & power balance
  • Existing ballast control system & interface
  • Proposed operational methodology


3 – Transparency on Total Capital Expenditure

Understanding the required capital expenditure of each ballast water management system option is a critical part of any selection process. However, it is not just the cost of the system itself that owners and operators should pay attention too. Aspects such as the anticipated expenditure of the installation, as well as any and all supplementary equipment & materials, all play a pivotal role in the overall capital expenditure of the project.

By identifying and quantifying these costs for each system option, the feasibility study provides owners and operators with a clear indication of total anticipated installation costs, which can then be used for budgeting purposes, as well as final decision making. Transparency on these anticipated costs, combined with the other aspects of the scoring matrix, can help demonstrate the cost-operational benefits of different system options, making it clear that the cheapest solution may not, in fact, be the most suitable.


4 – De-Risk Long Term Investment through Better Understanding of Corporate Viability

Often one of the most overlooked aspects of any system selection process is the corporate viability of the manufacturer. With over 50 different ballast water management systems on the market, and a time limited market opportunity for manufacturers, it is crucial that owners and operators fully analyse and understand the corporate viability of manufacturers, beyond the initial 5 year market boom.

Ballast Water Management System Breakdown
Breakdown of Ballast Water Management System Technologies

By analysing and scoring each prospective manufacturer, not only on their existing after sales and technical support networks, but also their viability long term for spares supply, the feasibility study provides owners and operators with a clear indication of the risk profile of each potential manufacturer. For younger vessels with longer lifespan, this aspect is even more critical – as spares will continue to be required for, potentially, over 20 years. Factoring this aspect in to the feasibility study significantly de-risks the long term operation of the vessel.


5 – Conceptual Arrangements Demonstrating Physical Impact Onboard

What good is a feasibility study if it doesn’t examine potential layout options of the ballast water management system within the prospective installation locations? By examining each system option within 3D point cloud data captured during a vessel survey, the owner and operator can get a physical sense of the suitability of different systems within the vessel and the real-estate that each will consume if installed.

Examining conceptual pipe routings is also beneficial, providing owners and operators with a clear indication of the impact that pipe routings may have on the existing ergonomics of the vessel’s existing machinery spaces  (or main deck in case of a deckhouse mounted option), as well as a sense of the complexity of the installation that each system would pose.


6 – Understand the Retrofit Practicality & the Impact on Installation Approach

Often one of the most complex issues of any retrofit project is the physical retrofit practicality. Conceptual arrangements examine the potential layouts of each ballast water management system option, but further analysis of the installation approach, the access routes for loading the equipment, materials and tooling, and practicalities of carrying out the installation in various scenarios (such as drydock, riding squads, alongside etc) is crucial.

In many cases systems have to be ruled out due to their physical size and weight for transportation to the installation location onboard, or, similarly, through the various doors, passageways and stairways onboard. This is particularly critical on complex vessels such as passenger ferries, where cutting holes in a single deck or sideshell is seldom of benefit.

By examining these aspects whilst onboard, the feasibility study team can provide a comprehensive summary of these critical aspects, which will, undoubtedly, drive the decision making process regarding the installation approach and where and when the works are carried out.


7 – Benefit from a Consultancy’s Experience

For owners and operators commissioning feasibility studies from specialist engineering consultancies such as Cleanship Solutions, the access to a wealth of experience and knowledge not only of the benefits and drawbacks of the various ballast water management systems available, but also of their respective practicalities, is priceless.

Feasibility studies conducted by specialist consultancies, such as Cleanship Solutions, offer significant added value – providing owners and operators with not only a tailored feasibility study for their respective vessel, but also recommendations based on significant experience across a range of ballast water management system technologies, manufacturers and vessel applications. Owners and operators can all benefit from the experience specialist consultancies have gained over the years, at minimal cost.



The feasibility study stage is a crucial part of any ballast water management retrofit project. As demonstrated by this article, the benefits of undertaking a comprehensive feasibility study are significant, they de-risk many aspects of the retrofit process entirely, and provide owners and operators with a platform from which to make a more informed decision on which ballast water management system to select.

Our own feasibility study approach is incredibly cost efficient. By keeping our pricing incredibly low, we invest significantly in our shipowner and operator clients, because we believe in ensuring owners and operators are in a position to make as reliable and informed a decision as possible when selecting a ballast water management system.

We are not just a consultancy, we are a compliance partner.


Chris McMenemy is Managing Director of Cleanship Solutions, part of Malin Group. Chris handles all aspects of Cleanship Solutions business activities, and is responsible for the development and maintenance of the companies retrofit knowledge, expertise and engineering services.


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