An interview with Andrew Marshall, CEO of Ecochlor, during the Posidonia exhibition
-What are the main challenges and opportunities regarding the installation of Ballast Water Management Systems?
I would say the major challenges right now regarding the installation of BWMSs are the global chain supply disruptions, shipowners looking for quick installation turnarounds and shipyard closings due to recurring pandemic spikes in China.
For the most part, Ecochlor has been able to turn many of these challenges into opportunities by doing things better, quicker and spending more time in the pre-planning stage. For example, when the pandemic first hit, we looked at multi-sourcing some of our components for better pricing and quicker turnaround; we continue it to this day. This has allowed us to not only minimize any supply disruptions but has to some degree offered cost reductions and quicker timelines that we have been able to pass along to our customers.
In regard to shipowners looking for quicker installation times, we knew this was coming . . . anyone who didn’t foresee it wasn’t looking at the market. During the pandemic we invested a lot of money, time and training to ensure that our BWMS installations were faster and more efficient. Through this effort, we have managed to overcome many of the delays experienced by our competitors. Now, we have an even better, more-timely plan in place throughout the entire installation process; our pre-installation planning and logistics processes have paid off in support of our customers and the shipyard!
In terms of shipyard closings, our engineering and logistics teams have had to be very flexible and diligent to ensure timely deliveries and on-time installation targets. This has created some very real headaches and COVID-19 has undoubtedly affected many companies, but generally speaking, at Ecochlor we are coming through it all quite well as we have had very few delays.
-Do the surging inflation and the rising cost of raw materials due to the war in Ukraine affect Ecochlor’s operations?
Of course, inflation affects everyone. As an industry, we will do everything possible to avoid passing on any price increases to our clients, but most people are understanding and want to work with us toward a mutually-agreeable solution. Our goal is to not only bring any price increase back down once we have a more stable market, but to try to bring them even lower than what they were prior to the pandemic. It is a goal we have made within our company and a commitment we are working toward for our customers.
-What are the skills seafarers should have to meet BWMS requirements?
The single most important thing seafarers need to have, not just to meet the BWMS requirements but for their own safety, is to be adequately trained in the use of the equipment. But let’s face it, there are some BWMSs out there that are more difficult to operate than others. For example, the unpredictability of electro-chlorination and UV in waters that are less than optimal for those systems make it more difficult for the crew to operate and would require more extensive training. Fortunately, the EcoOne® BWMS is simplicity in itself with only a few major components and an almost ‘plug and play’ operating system.
Most manufacturers offer training facilities and online software modules. We offer that as well and also produce materials in digital and paper form and have even assisted a shipowner in creating a Remote Education Centre for their crew. We offer training above and beyond the typical manufacturer’s training programs by continuing to offer instruction on a regular basis (approximately twice a year) whilst we are on board during our chemical resupply operations. We have found that when seafarers take advantage of this, it offers the best possible outcome for everyone. While in port, the last thing you need, when the crew is particularly busy, is to have them distracted because they are trying to operate a piece of equipment with which they are not thoroughly familiarised.
-What is the role of R&D in Ecochlor’s operations?
In April 2021, we introduced our filterless EcoOne® BWMS with hybrid variants. Our new generation of BWMSs include all the benefits of our traditional systems – no TRO sensors, no electrodes or complex power supplies, no need to treat or neutralize at discharge as well as an option to gravity ballast – but also have the advantage of being even simpler to use, less power requirements and less costly. All without sacrificing Ecochlor’s renowned reliability and service standards.
Additionally, our Service and Chemical Resupply Teams are endlessly researching locations for our in-house service engineers and expanding our network of highly trained Authorized Service Partners around the world. Our long-term strategy is to build processes and logistics around our customers’ global requirements.
We are also working on a containerized design for our filterless EcoOne® BWMS for the offshore drilling marketplace. The EcoOne® Container Unit is expected to be available for installation by the end of 2022 and has the unique benefit of only needing one BWMS to handle 4 quadrants for semi-submersible rigs as well as service all sub-systems for jack-up rigs.
-What does the future hold for Ecochlor? What are you expecting from the Posidonia exhibition?
The future looks pretty good for Ecochlor. We have launched two variants of BWMSs, the filterless EcoOne® with hybrid options to unprecedented success. Now, the vessel owner and operator can better determine what type of system they install on their ship to provide for the best treatment system for their vessel and trade route.
Additionally, we are looking to diversify our portfolio of environmental services with increased collaborations and partnerships as well as in-house development in other environmental technologies. Whilst keeping a steady focus on continuing to offer our clients a BWMS that keeps their vessel compliant both now and into the future, we are also engaged in transitioning Ecochlor from a company concentrating singularly on BWMSs into a “Green Marine” environmental service and technology company. That’s our future, and the time is right for expansion.