Case Studies

Shipping Industry Goes Full Swing in the Installation of Ballast Water Treatment Systems

Shipping Industry Goes Full Swing in the Installation of Ballast Water Treatment Systems

FARO Laser Scanner Focus3D Improves Efficiency of Measuring Process Significantly

Environmental problems such as marine and air pollution are usually caused by industrial wastewater, smoke and soot. A lesser known, innocuous cause of contamination, however, is the water discharged by ships.

Large ships take in fresh or seawater into tanks and cargo holds to help stabilize and balance a ship. Known as ‘ballast water’, this is what a ship draws in at its port of call, either before loading cargo or after unloading cargo. As the ballast water travels with the ship, it can be taken from one region to another that is thousands of kilometers away.

This is a problem because seawater contains sediments, plankton and a variety of small organisms. When ships discharge its ballast water at the port of call, the transfer of harmful aquatic organisms may occur, causing a huge impact to the balance of marine life. In fact, the problem of ballast water transfer has been gaining greater prominence in countries such as America, Australia and many others in recent times.

In response to this growing concern, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has adopted the “BWM Convention”, which will require all international ocean-going ships to install ballast water treatment systems onboard. This translates to more than 30,000 existing ships that will be fitted with ballast water treatment systems in the next few years.

A Joint Study Supported by ClassNK

Motivated by the shipping industry’s need, a joint study group named “The Effective Use of 3D Laser Scanner” was founded, and the study explored the use of a 3D laser scanner to design the ballast water treatment system. The eight-member group of the study included ClassNK, Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha (NYK Line), Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (MOL), Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha, Ltd. (“K” Line), Monohakobi Technology Institute (MTI), Sasebo Heavy Industries Co., Ltd., Sanwa Dock Co., Ltd., The University of Tokyo and S.E.A. Systems, Inc., and the study is being carried out supported by ClassNK as part of the Society’s “Joint R&D with industry” scheme. This time, FARO had the chance to speak to Sanwa Dock (a ship repair company based in Onomichi, Hiroshima prefecture, Japan) about the application of FARO Laser Scanner Focus3D. The FARO device was used in an early stage of preparation for the installation of ballast water treatment systems.


Scanning the Engine Room onboard a ship with Focus3D

Design: A Painstaking and Laborious Process

Typically, the ballast water treatment system goes into the engine room or pump room of a ship. The installation of a new and large system to a functioning ship involves a great deal of time and effort because of the complicated piping systems and machinery already present.

The traditional method of creating detailed drawings requires manual measurements to replicate the actual site layout. Any remodeling to accommodate the new system will have to be done based on these manually-produced drawings. This entails numerous on-site inspections of the ship, and enormous amounts of design time. In addition, limitations that come with manual measurements mean that a slight error on paper could amplify to become a much larger design fault during execution.


Data points of machine room captured by the Focus3D


3D CAD model of machine room constructed based on the collection of data points


Proposed design of ballast water treatment system based on accurate 3D scans of existing structures in the engine room

Measuring Effectively with Focus3D

Instead of going with the traditional method, Sanwa Dock invested in Focus3D to measure the engine room. The Focus3D is a lightweight, compact three-dimensional (3D) laser scanner that weighs in at 5kg and measures 24cm x 20cm x 10cm. Capable of scanning 976,000 measurement points per second, the Focus3D creates accurate, high-fidelity digital images rapidly.

The use of Focus3D dramatically reduced the amount of on-site measuring time for Sanwa Dock. The technicians used to take days to measure existing piping and facilities manually, but with the Focus3D, it only took them a few hours to a day to complete the task. In addition, the measurement points collected can be converted into 3D CAD data, making it possible to create 3D design drawings directly from the CAD data.

The integrated color camera offered photo-realistic 3D scans, which helped in easy identification of the complex piping routing of an engine room at a glance. Impressed by the portability of the Focus3D, a design engineer of Sanwa Dock commented, “Since the Focus3D is compact and light, it can easily be setup anywhere in small engine rooms onboard any ship. This is especially so if the area is very tightly packed, such that technicians can’t even set foot into the room to take measurements. The Focus3Dis also extremely user friendly.”

Enhanced Efficiency with 3D CAD Data

Once the Focus3D captures the data points of the target area, the accompanying software processes and constructs complete 3D models with the data. The new ballast water treatment system and its piping route can then be planned and integrated seamlessly with existing structures. The ability to plan in advance, based on accurate 3D models, allows optimum design to be created and factors in preparation time for crucial items, such as detailed structural designs, production materials and engineering drawings.

In addition, it is easier to get an idea of the overall layout after the installation of the ballast water treatment system and to identify the potential problems. This would be difficult to address using the traditional 2D model.

Due to the time-savings accorded by the Focus3D, project durations are significantly shortened. The time and effort can be put towards the installation of the system itself instead. Design, production, and installation of fixtures can be better managed, allowing each project to be completed in good time.

As the BWM Convention is expected to come into force in the near future, the demand for installations of ballast water treatment systems will surge. It is a real possibility that the shipping industry may struggle to meet strong demand.

Some large shipping companies are already planning ahead and considering the installation of treatment systems ahead of the BWM Convention. In order to meet high demand in a short period of time, it is imperative for shipping companies to look for ways that cut man hours, while ensuring error-free installation. To that end, laser scanning technology is the most effective means to capture a large volume of data within a short period of time for the construction of accurate 3D models. This may prove to be the most efficient and promising solution for the impending challenge of producing countless water ballast treatment systems, in order to meet the shipping industry’s needs over the next few years.


Sanwa Dock is a leading ship repair company in Japan that provides repair facilities capable of servicing and modifying all types of vessels. The company specializes in repairs of small and medium sized vessels, but is also well-equipped with technical capabilities to handle a wide range of repairs and modifications from normal cargo ships to special vessels.

Taking on the challenge of installing ballast water treatment systems to protect the marine environment, Sanwa Dock continues to play a leading role in the Japanese Shipping Industry, well-known for its technical capabilities in the global arena.

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