/ MEDIA STATEMENT / This content is not written by Creamer Media, but is a supplied media statement.
Cybicom Atlas Defence (Pty) Ltd undertook significant research and development on a water treatment system to kill small aquatic organisms and microorganisms in the ballast water of ships.
Merchant vessels pump ballast water into tanks to maintain stability during a voyage on the open seas. This water must be discharged into the sea before entering a port. However, the discharge of untreated water from one location may contain small aquatic organisms of invasive species, plants, bacteria and viruses, and poses a threat to the environment and public health of another location. If suitable conditions exist in this discharge environment, these organisms of invasive species and plants will survive and reproduce to become invasive species, with dire consequences for the local marine ecosystem. Toxin-releasing algae and pathogenic bacteria (which cause disease) pose a danger to public health. New legislation in this regard by the International Maritime Organization has resulted in standards for all merchant vessels operating internationally.
The progress on this water treatment system for ballast water is promising as it will give ship operators without a ballast water treatment system the option to install a flexible and affordable technology to treat ballast water to accepted specifications before discharge. Dave Viljoen, Managing Director, highlights the challenges for owners of merchant vessels in acquiring a ballast water treatment system and the opportunity this presents for his team in customising existing technology. “This is a ‘grudge buy’ for older vessels without a ballast water treatment system. Expenditure on and operation of a ballast water treatment system are expensive for ship owners with no prospect of earning profit from this investment. Systems must also be adapted to the limited space available on a vessel.”
A local solution for a ship ballast water treatment system
“The technology that we are adapting to offer a potential solution, is the Hydrotron. It is a water treatment system that destroys pathogens and microorganisms, using the principles of electrolysis. Electrolysis is a technique that uses direct electric current to drive an otherwise non-spontaneous chemical reaction.”
The core of the system is the direct application of an electric field between anodes and cathodes of specific material housed in reactors filled with water installed in-line. The continuous high-frequency, low-duty-cycle, high-current pulses applied to the electrodes drive electro-motive forces that trigger a set of molecular and chemical reactions, with a low overall power consumption.
Viljoen explains that this technology has been implemented on land-based sites and developed in South Africa. It could therefore offer a ballast water treatment system at a significantly lower cost. “Our plan is to take this land-based water treatment system and convert it for use at sea, thereby reducing time to market, and with minimal disruptions in terms of installation and operation,” he confirms.
To date, the water treatment system under development has been shown to disrupt the membranes of microorganisms, thereby killing them. It also initiates a process of electro chlorination: the electrolysis of saltwater produces a chlorinated solution, which disinfects the water. Viljoen confirms, “We can therefore deduce that this process has the potential to kill a number of microorganisms and pathogens that are harmful to the environment and public health.” Further intensive water testing is ongoing with partners at universities and laboratories for validation of repeatable and calibrated testing methodology in line with specifications. He confirms that two local shipyards are interested in participating in this project, but more work remains before this is possible. International accreditation of this water treatment system is a step that lies well in the future.
To demonstrate the working of the system, Viljoen and his team have built a demonstration model on a trailer (a mobile unit). He notes, “This water treatment technology has the potential for use on land to treat industrial wastewater and produce potable water, and these options will be explored as well.”