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A Finnish innovation cleans ships’ wastewaters (Kirkkonummen Sanomat 14.1.2018)

Satu Holmlund, Kirkkonummen Sanomat 14.1.2018

Finnish microbiotechnology company ProtectPipe’s bacteria are now cleaning wastewater on cruise ships sailing on the Baltic Sea. The results seem promising for both domestic and international ship companies.

Marine traffic causes several threats for the world’s waters. Ship wastewaters are one of the major problems for the Baltic Sea, and some of the international luxury cruise ships still legally dispose their wastewaters to the sea. However, changes are coming soon, since the International Maritime Organization (IMO) defined the Baltic Sea and the North Sea as Special Areas in 2016. The decision forbids cruise ships from dumping unprocessed wastewater to the sea.

The basis is that all companies operating around the Baltic Sea have to take part in improving the condition of the sea by decreasing its nitrogen and phosphorous load. The directives come into effect for new ships in 2019 and in 2021 for ships already in operation. To avoid extra fees ships, harbours and shipyards need to find a solution for the problems caused by organic waste as soon as possible.

Decreasing organic waste

ProtectPipe, established in 2016, produces the Biomarine microbe solution. The living bacteria of the solution literally eat the organic waste from the wastewater system. The solution stops the decomposition process of the waste and prevents harmful gases from forming. The company has developed the microbe strain together with microbiologists of University of Helsinki. The microbe strain can tolerate difficult conditions, such as marked changes in temperatures and pH-values.

Biomarine is completely harmless to health, environmentally friendly and sustainable solution that effectively prevents many of the main difficulties ship companies face.The solution facilitates piping cleanliness and wastewater treatment, and brings great benefits for the shipping companies. Customer satisfaction is increased, since the odor and blockage problems of waterless urinals are reduced by the bacteria.

Clear results reached on M/S Birka Stockholm

ProtectPipe’s innovation has been tested on one of the largest cruise ships operating on the Baltic Sea and the results have been excellent. The ship’s wastewater system was initially dosed with eight liters of microbial solution per day. Clear, promising results in could be noticed after three months. The hard uric scale accumulated in the pipeline had decreased considerably. The ship’s mess drainpipe and grease trap were cleaned and the blockages, smells and insects had disappeared.

It is particularly important for shipping companies that the levels of hydrogen sulfide reduce to below 10 ppm. Stockholm’s harbour has set a strict 25 ppm limit to the hydrogen sulfite in the wastewater which the ship leaves at the port. If the ship company crosses the limit it has to pay extra fees. To verify the results the ship did not pour the microbe solution to their wastewater system. The hydrogen sulfite’s average value increased to 90 ppm and the peak was life-threatening 654 ppm.

The second stage of the test was to double the dosage of the microbial solution to 16 liters per day. This resulted in the hydrogen sulfide average dropping close to zero. The next step is to decrease the dosage of the solution in stages to find out its optimal effectivity. In addition to this the dosing points will be installed in every drain line of the ship. By the usage of the microbial solution there will be no need to use chemicals anymore. The maintenance staff don’t have to work with substances that harm their health nor they need to do the unclogging mechanically.

Remarkable savings by biological wastewater treatment

ProtectPipe believes that if environment-friendliness and sustainable development are linked to the idea of productivity they can be appealing for companies. Reliable and stable hydrogen sulfite value, low maintenance expenses, longer-lasting structures of a ship and reduced expenses both in harbour and wastewater charges make the environmentally treatment of wastewater very appealing.

The expenses of purchase and renovation decrease the estimated age of a wastewater system. Each day when a ship is under construction and can’t operate can cause loss of hundreds and thousands of euros for a company. A careful sewerage treatment protects both a ship’s structure and sewerage network located in the mainland. The amount of organic waste ending up to water treatment plants decreases and the fragile ecosystem of the Baltic Sea doesn’t get violated.

To be continued

Klas Alfthan, the founder of ProtectPipe, tells that Rederi Ab Eckerö will continue to use the solution after the pilot too.

“The technical department of the shipping company has made the decision to implement our system for the entire vessel. We are currently planning this project. There are approximately one hundred dosing points planned for the ship.”

A clog in the low-pressure system of a ship might cause clogged drains in hundreds of cabins. Dangerous and and corrosive acids have been used for decades to prevent this. These acids destroy the structure of a ship and develop more hydrogen sulfide.

“Our system allows the water purification process to start immediately when the toilet is flushed, so that uric scale can not be formed and the hydrogen sulfide problem is removed. The most important thing is to be 100% sure that the pipes won’t become clogged and the water purification process will start already in the ship. The dosage should always be planned based on this. The potential savings and the image the customers get of the preventive water purification are very valuable”, says Alfthan.

People going on cruises have become more and more environmentally conscious. Due to this they don’t accept anymore the fact that ship companies’ customs are damaging the fragile nature.

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