Optimarin – Optimum Environmental Performance

Norwegian ballast water treatment system manufacturer Optimarin remains at the forefront with its latest product launch.

Optimarin, established in 1994, is a specialist, one-product business with a global reach. The company installed the world’s first ballast water system onboard the cruise vessel Regal Princess in 2000 and now is on its way towards the 2,000 systems-sold milestone.

Optimarin CEO Leiv Kallestad explained that in many respects the company has been the prime mover in the industry.  “Following the first commercial installation in 2000, our ballast water system was the first to have received US Coastal Guard approval in 2016. We were also the first with commercial innovations and first with a big data digital application for monitoring of BW operations, compliance, and online support.”

Headquartered near Stavanger in Norway, Optimarin has offices in the US, Japan, China, Holland, Singapore and Bulgaria, and a global distribution and service network. Its superbly engineered product continues to be one of the best in the market today.

The business model itself is a unique feature of the company – Optimarin has in-house control of the critical elements of the value chain, but no assembly or own production of parts, which makes the business flexible and scalable.

“We have a very efficient ordering process. Parts orders are automatically placed with our suppliers and shipped to our central warehouse in Luxembourg and subsequently shipped to the destination for installation and commissioning. We are the IKEA of the ballast water industry in that the OBS is shipped in a compact form, and is easy to install onboard the ship.” said Leiv Kallestad.

The first digital system

The innovative approach that has been a distinctive feature of the company from the very beginning, has remained a core driver until the present day: in June this year, Optimarin launched the first digital ballast water management system – OptiLink – the biggest innovation the company has undertaken since the IMO-approved system was launched in 2009.

The OptiLink system provides real-time data transfer between ship & shore (via 4G or the vessel’s own network), enabling careful planning of ballast water operations to ensure regulatory compliance at all times, and avoiding costly delays in port.

The setup, which can also be used with other types of ballast water systems, will be particularly useful in managing ballast water operations in ports and waters containing high levels of sediment. Ballasting in these circumstances can require several ballast water exchanges at sea during a voyage – inconvenient and time-consuming – or risk non-compliance at the next port.

Leiv Kallestad explained that the digital system means that ballast water management now becomes an integral part of a ship’s operation. “The BWTS can be managed proactively in support of reduced downtime and reduced fuel consumption with less hassle, as control over the transfer of ballast water in and out of the vessel improves greatly,” he said.

The system will also enable interactive remote support, with online software updates, ensuring a reduction in the requirement for physical system maintenance. Condition monitoring will enable proactive maintenance and more efficient operation by promptly alerting the crew to any equipment malfunctions.

Market developments

“Digitisation is key to tackling the ballast water treatment compliance issue and Optimarin has developed the first digital solution of its kind that provides data transparency and predictability in this area while integrating the BWTS into a ship’s control system,” said Leiv Kallestad.

He reflected that while many expected the ballast water treatment system market to start growing exponentially after the new IMO regulation came into force, it has stalled in recent months, partly as a result of the global pandemic and its consequences. With reference to public sources, there are still some 35,000 vessels in need of a BWT system installation and progress seems slow.

“If all these vessels are to be ready by 2024, the market is expected to explode in the coming months but it remains to be seen if shipowners make timely decisions, and that shipyards subsequently are able to cope with the demand. Post-2024, many suppliers will have to compete for new builds, and some consolidation can be expected. Optimarin is therefore developing new applications for new markets which will contribute to the development of the company after the so-called retrofit wave is over.”

“Moving beyond the consolidation, we can see that our technology can be applied in other areas as well. Right now, we are putting together a pilot for its use in biofouling and fish farming after 2024. This is an area with great potential, waiting for the legislation to be put in place so that companies start investing in these systems.”

Environmental by definition

In the context of increasing environmental focus, the company’s conscience is clear – its system that helps to save marine life, hence helps the environment, is green by definition. “The new OptiLink goes even further,” affirmed Leiv Kallestad. “ It helps shipowners to reduce their environmental footprint by enabling them to better plan their ballast water operations, reducing the port time as well as fuel consumption.”

He added that Optimarin also has a very lean supply chain with a very small footprint, encouraging its suppliers to be as environmentally focused as possible.  The company operates a highly integrated supply chain and solid relationships are the basis of successful development.

“Our whole business model is based on very close cooperation with our suppliers, and as we don’t have our own production and assembly, our suppliers are also an important part of our product development programme,” he explained, adding that as Optimarin had a dual supplier strategy in place, the company remained largely unaffected by the disruptions caused by the pandemic.

Following the major investment in 2019-2020 in new system certification and the OptiLink system development, the company is well prepared for the emerging post-pandemic opportunities.  “The shipping industry is slowly but surely going green. We want to play a part in that process, as well as help the environment in other segments,” concluded Leiv Kallestad.

More like this