Bulk carrier operator Safe Bulkers is to fit Erma First ballast water management systems (BWMSs) on most of its ships over a five-year period. The first installation is expected to take place during a scheduled drydocking during Q1 2018, the Monaco-based company said in a statement on 8 November, and this is expected to be the 2003-built Maria, one of its 76,000 DWT Panamax vessels, Safe Bulker’s president, Loukas Barmparis told BWTT today (10 November).
A total of 34 ships will be included in the scheme and Erma First’s managing director Konstantinos Stampedakis told BWTT that the project “is one of our biggest in general and our biggest in the retrofit market.”
At present, Safe Bulkers operates a fleet of 38 ships, comprising 14 Panamax, nine Kamsarmax, 12 post- Panamax and three Capesize vessels, all built 2003 onwards, but the four most recent deliveries had systems installed during construction. Those ships do not have Erma First equipment and nor will another Kamsarmax vessel that is on order in Japan, scheduled for delivery in 2018. When those contracts were placed, their specifications included systems chosen by their Chinese and Japanese builders, Mr Barmparis said. Those systems provided experience of chemical and electrolysis systems, he said, which helped it identify a suitable system for this project.
The company’s statement said the two companies had “co-operated intensively” for several months “to optimise and adapt the system [for the] company’s vessels.” Mr Barmparis told BWTT that, as a result, it has drawn up a complete drydocking schedule to cover all 34 ships and specified systems to suit each ship’s pumping, piping and other parameters. It was important to ensure that each installation could be completed within the ship’s normal drydocking, he said.
Erma First secured US Coast Guard type-approval for its Erma First BWTS Fit treatment system on 18 October, making it the first full-flow electrolysis system to receive USCG type-approval. It is one of two systems made by the Greek company and fitting it will allow unrestricted worldwide trading, Mr Barmparis said.
Mr Barmparis explained in the company’s statement that it had decided to start installations “at an early stage which provides us with certain commercial and financial advantages, including availability of equipment, minimisation of downtime … and the financial benefits of a block order.”
Neither he nor Mr Stampedakis revealed the project’s cost but Mr Barmparis said that Safe Bulkers’ installations will be covered by the company’s own resources, without taking a loan. With such a large order, price discounts can be achieved, he said.
When Erma First signed the contract with Safe Bulkers, it also signed a deal for a number of installations with Alassia NewShips Management. Its chief executive is Nikolaos Hadjiioannou, brother of Safe Bulkers’ chief executive, Polys Hadjiioannou. Mr Barmparis suggested to BWTT that these orders would also benefit from the same bulk discounts it had achieved. Mr Stampedakis said that additional units will also be fitted in “Hadjiioannou family-owned vessels” bringing the total contract to 45 ships.
Thanks to the size of this contract, Erma First will accelerate an expansion plan, he told BWTT. “Already new designers and project managers are joining our team to support all the current orders and to get prepared for the future ones,” he said.