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A unique perspective on ballast water management

Monday, 23 May 2022 | 00:00

Having been in the ballast water management industry for over 20 years, Etai Dagan, the founder and managing director of Filtersafe, has a unique and interesting perspective on the sector, its challenges, and future.

The filter man

Mr.Dagan was one of the first people to enter the ballast water conversation back in 1998 and was present at the preliminary discussions on ballast water management where he was a key consultant on filtration.

“Having studied agriculture at university, I learnt about filtration vis-à-vis irrigation, which is heavily dependent on filters to prevent equipment from clogging,” explains Mr. Dagan. “Then, while running Amiad Australia, I received a phone call from Lin Mackaway – a fellow chief executive. She was calling on behalf of a group of marine biologists who explained the problem of invasive species being transported in ships’ ballast water and the need for ballast water management systems (BWMS) and filtration. I like a challenge and was keen to see how we could pivot our learnings to a maritime setting.”

A few years later, in 2005, Mr. Dagan started BallastSafe – now known as Filtersafe. He built the company, based in northern Israel, from a start up with two employees into a multi-national company with hundreds of employees worldwide. Today, Filtersafe is a global leader in automatic saltwater filtration specialising in self-cleaning, high-capacity fine-mesh filters and is among the five largest mechanical filtration businesses in the world.

Having been involved in the evolution of the ballast water management sector from the start, Mr. Dagan is well placed to advise shipowners and operators on what their key considerations should be today.

Invasive aquatic species

“Firstly, it’s important to remember that stopping the spread of invasive aquatic species remains vitally important to regulators and other influential actors,” says Dagan. “In the early 21st century, the United Nations described the proliferation of invasive aquatic species as the second largest environmental concern after greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. While, appropriately, a lot of focus is being concentrated on reducing shipping’s GHG emissions, ballast water management must not fall too far into its shadow. It remains a critical environmental consideration to all shipowners and operators and should form a central element of ESG responsibilities.”

While regulations have moved slowly, with the International Maritime Organization’s Ballast Water Management Convention (BWMC) taking 12 years to ratify (about three times longer than expected), it was ultimately ratified in 2017 – a significant moment in the industry – and shipping’s priority has now shifted to enforcement and BWMS operational compliance.

“Given the environmental importance of ballast water management and the resources invested from a regulatory and equipment perspective, shipowners and operators holding out for exemptions or rule changes are likely to get caught out. That ship has sailed,” Dagan warns. “Exemptions would require regulators to take actions contrary to the environmental aims of the BWMC and against the UN Sustainable Development Goal 14 – Life Below Water.”

He cautions that owners and operators who are only doing the bare minimum are also at risk. “Ballast water management is much more than a tick box exercise. Those purely driven by short-term CAPEX costs rather than thinking of long-term compliance, effectiveness and OPEX costs, will likely succumb to BWMS operational challenges and ultimately not be compliant with regulations.”

So, what is the best way to ensure long-term compliance?

Invest in experience

Dagan suggests that with regulatory compliance now mandatory, it is important that operators and suppliers collaborate with BWMS suppliers to overcome operational issues.

Clogging remains a pressing issue, which usually takes place in sediment-rich waters – for example those in the port of Shanghai. A clogged BWMS and filter can cause costly damage to components, operational delays during ballasting leading to inefficiency and loss of earnings, and vessel safety issues. Filtersafe has used its knowledge to create an objective, scientific whitepaper for shipowners and operators outlining these clogging issues and solutions in more detail.

“Shipowners and operators charting these high-sediment waters should not only invest in a high-quality, high-performance filter, but should also choose a supplier that takes a collaborative approach, providing advice and problem-solving services to customers. An investment in a specific filter or system is also an investment in that supplier’s experience and expertise.”

Filtersafe has a strong understanding of the market, track record of reacting to customers’ needs, and a legacy of innovation. Historically, the company was quick to react to D-2 standard compliance needs, quickly understanding the requirements to remove organic material and developing innovative filter screens with higher removal rates – a competitive advantage to this day.

The research and development department also remains key. Last year, as part of a $10m market-feedback programme to overcome corrosion issues, Filtersafe decided to manufacture its filter screens with the more durable 904L grade stainless steel and remove 316L grade steel from its filter supply chain. As well as market needs, this innovation was driven by Filtersafe’s long experience.

“I’ve been around the block a few times and understand the importance of listening to my customers, and taking a partnership approach to solving the evolving issues and challenges that they face. Someone recently dubbed me The Filter Man, I mean I can’t say it’s what I dreamt of as a young boy, but now that I know the importance of filters and their ability to play such a critical role in the control of invasive species; I’m more than happy to accept that title.”

To find out more, please visit: https://filtersafe.net/
Source: Filtersafe

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