An IoT solution for smoother ballast water operations on all the world’s oceans

An IoT solution for smoother ballast water operations on all the world’s oceans

Optimarin delivers smart systems for purification of ballast water for ships. Back in the autumn of 2020, they began a collaboration with Digitread Connect to develop applications that present valuable data for shipping companies. The purpose is to give shipowners a better insight and to make ballast water operations even more efficient and flexible.

“One of the things we like best about Digitread Connect is the way they work. They asked us what our minimum requirements for a solution would be. Just a week and a half later, they had developed a solution that worked in real life. We continue to work together; we are moving forward in short sprints whereby they develop concrete limited improvements. The advantage is that we are able to reach each sub-goal quickly, and it is also very easy to change course if something needs to be adjusted along the way. Thus, this form of collaboration has suited us very well and gives us even better added functionality,” explains Ingve Risa who is System Engineer at Optimarin.

Ballast water is an environmental challenge

All cargo ships pump ballast water in and out of the ballast tanks to keep the vessel stable. The problem, however, is that the ballast water that is pumped into the ship in one place carries with it organisms that can affect the ecosystems where the ballast water is eventually pumped out again – often in oceans on the other side of the globe. In the English Channel you will find lots of non-native species that do not belong there. Canadian lobster has also been registered at the southern coast of Norway. But there are many more examples thereby making it one of the greatest maritime environmental challenges the world is currently facing. Strict regulations have been introduced relating to the purification of ballast water on ships, and the newest rules applied mean that all ships using commercial shipping lanes must have a purification system installed by 2025 at the latest.

Filtration and UV light

Optimarin has developed a purification solution that is approved for use on all the world’s oceans. Firstly, the two-step process ensures a fitted particle filter stops larger organisms and particles from entering the ballast tank. The second stage involves the water being irradiated with UV light. The light ensures that the remaining particles either die completely, or that they become sterile, so that they cannot reproduce. The system is modular and can be scaled to purify from 87 to 3,000 cubic meters of ballast water per hour. The modules are placed between the pumps and ballast tanks on the ships and contain filters, the UV module, sensors, as well as systems for controlling, monitoring, and analyzing.

Optimarins Ballast Water Treatment System combines simplicity with innovation. Digitread Connect collects and structures data from the ballast operations in the cloud. The information is then visualized and presented in userfriendly web applications

Powered by Siemens technology

The control system has been developed in-house by Optimarin and is based on Siemens PLCs. Digitread Connect has also enjoyed an extensive collaboration with Siemens over several decades, and uses Siemens cloud service MindSphere, which made Digitread Connect even more attractive when it came to choosing an appropriate partner for this venture.

“Digitread Connect possesses the expertise we lack in this area and hence are exactly the partner we were looking to collaborate with. They also showed us examples of solutions, which made it much easier for us to envisage what was possible and to decide which services we would be able to offer in addition to what we deliver today,” Risa continues.

“We needed a company who has the knowledge to retrieve data efficiently from the cloud and who, at the same time, are able to deliver user-friendly and tailored Optimarin applications such as “software as a service”. It was also important for us to find a partner who could do this quickly and efficiently. Digitread Connect has shown, every step of the way, that they can do this,” he adds.

The applications are built on the low-code platform developed by Norwegian Appfarm.

A tool that offers shipowners cost saving benefits

Optimarin and Digitread Connect have started small making it easier to scale up the development as and when needed.

“Since we work in sprints, we can develop the system in small steps and, in so doing, we do not have to invest the entire budget putting all our eggs into one basket only for it not to come to fruition. Instead, we have a flexible development process where we can adapt the solution as we discover new needs and opportunities,” Risa explains.

The first pilot was tested on a ship in November 2020 and involved a digital solution where the data is presented in real-time without the need for anyone to input anything right from the time the data is generated until it is presented on an easy-to-understand interface. By collecting health data on the treatment plant on board and presenting it to the shipping companies, it makes it easier to plan and carry out preventive maintenance thus increasing the availability and operational output of equipment. Many new opportunities can also be tapped into:

“It is much faster to purify clean water than water that is turbid, and the cleaner the water, the less energy is consumed by UV radiation. The sooner we are able to obtain more data about the water quality in the world’s ports, the sooner we will be able to give the shipping companies information about the water quality that they will be confronted with in the next port, which, in turn, will make it easier for them to plan their operations. Perhaps, in the future, we can also link this information with exact GPS data so that shipowners, for example, can move their ships a few hundred meters to find areas where the water is as clean as possible. This tool has enabled us to have the most important infrastructure in place; in the future, we will continue to develop many such solutions that will simplify the shipping companies’ everyday lives and help them make money and cut costs from using our solutions,” Risa concludes.

Ingve Risa, System Engineer at Optimarin

Published: 16.04.2021