OceanSaver's collapse underlined how sensitive manufacturers are to market conditions. Paul Gunton thinks this will set a trend.
I was in China last month to speak at a conference whose main thrust was about standardisation in the ballast water treatment sector.
So my paper about financing options available to shipowners planning to buy ballast water management systems went off on a bit of a tangent from the event’s main direction but I believe the market will soon shake down and one of the factors affecting a manufacturer’s survival will be its financial strength and its familiarity with its national export credit schemes.
That shakeout has begun. Last month we saw the sad demise of OceanSaver, just as the conference in China was coming to a close.
It was clear that, in the end, it had come down to finance. Despite holding a coveted US Coast Guard type-approval certificate, it said that ‘insufficient liquidity’ coupled with a market downturn following IMO’s MEPC 71 decision on installation deadlines had made it impossible to continue.
As you know, its assets have been taken over by the IMS Group which will incorporate OceanSaver’s system into its TeamTec operation which already has a number of other product lines so will not be dependent on a steady ballast system market.
I think this pattern will be repeated. Manufacturers that rely exclusively or mainly on their ballast management business will be vulnerable to the same pressures that did for OceanSaver while companies that have a diverse product range and can afford to ride out the peaks and troughs in this sector have better long-term prospects.
Having said that, in July, Hitachi advised that it had stopped its Clear Ballast business, so my analysis may be too simple. Instead, I will mangle a clichéd marketing phrase: For a BWMS manufacturer to survive, its ballast interests should be big enough to matter, but small enough not to matter too much.