At a recent event held by manufacturer Evoqua, the company’s business manager for ballast water treatment system Matt Granitto offered a quote that I suspect will resonate with shipowners with regard to this technology.
He said: “There is no economic benefit to this – we know that.” Going on to say: “I tell my salesmen – we’re selling coffins here. Nobody wants one, but guess what? Everyone needs one.” And that – starkly – is the situation faced by shipowners at the moment with regard to ballast water. They grudgingly have to invest in this technology in the clear knowledge that in most cases it represents a cost with no potential for return.
However, this situation also represents a problem for manufacturers in the long term. At the moment, they are able to differentiate themselves by acquiring the necessary type approvals that mean the customer can have reasonable confidence that they will be compliant if tested. While the current regulatory certainty exists, those manufacturers able to offer this confidence will naturally thrive. But what will happen when this uncertainty no longer exists? When all the systems still on the market can offer compliance, what then?
It seems likely to me that, as a grudge purchase, the only differentiators customers will care about when it comes to ballast water treatment systems will be price and cost of ownership, at which point manufacturers may be faced to a cutthroat race to the bottom. At the moment, of course, manufacturers are frantically trying to make the most of the market’s need for reliable, compliant systems. Look ahead a few years, however, and they may be faced with different challenges.