The stewards of the world's most sensitive marine environments have gradually, but firmly, clamped down on wastewater emissions over the past 15 years. To expand into destinations like Alaska and the Baltic Sea, ships now need to be able to purify their grey and black water to the highest of standards. Each new set of regulations sparks its own set of concerns among owners and operators, but Henrik Badin, CEO of waste management supplier Scanship, says he has seen a surprising shift in the industry's attitude since Alaska's Cruise Ship Wastewater Discharge Regulation was first approved in 2003.
"The industry is not passive, sitting and waiting for standards to be enforced," he says. "With corporate responsibility and sustainability targets, we are seeing that the industry is competing on these initiatives more."
Today, a ship's environmental credentials are a selling point. Operators and owners are more likely than ever to talk up their waste treatment suppliers, as Sir Richard Branson did in November 2017 when he announced a partnership with Scanship for Virgin Voyages' first cruise vessels.
Scanship has also previously worked with Royal Caribbean Cruise Line (RCCL), now Royal Caribbean International, to retrofit the largest ships in the business with its state-of-the-art advanced wastewater purification systems. This process, too, has metamorphosed over time. Previously, a major retrofit project on an Voyager-class RCCL vessel could take up to 60,000 hours, with Scanship engineers staying on board to complete the installation while the ship was in operation. This prevented the need for a lengthy dry-dock, but could still inflate costs and lose bookings for the owners. Scanship's engineers can now digitally scan the installation space and prefabricate a waste management system in separate parts to be installed during a quick dry-dock.
The company also maintains an ongoing service agreement with Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), which was recently renewed for another two years. NCL ships receive remote assistance via a digital platform to ensure that the system is operated in a way that complies with cost and environmental guidelines. Scanship also provides parts and consumables for its systems, which means that it can not only track how well the equipment is performing, but also guarantee that it does not overperform. "Let's say you produce too high a quality of water: you don't need to do that because there's a cost associated with energy and consumables that you're using. It's our responsibility to make sure that there's no overconsumption," Badin explains.
Badin says his goal is for Scanship to become a one-stop shop for shipowners. The company was originally a service provider, buying products from suppliers and helping clients to install and operate them efficiently, but over the years it has carved out its own niche. Its proprietary technology covers a wide spectrum of waste management, including wastewater treatment, and garbage handling, recycling and reusing. "More clients really want to work with us. They feel safe knowing that having these systems installed on board really provides some environmental impact," says Badin.
A waste-to-energy converter is in the pipeline, which uses microwave-assisted pyrolysis to rapidly heat carbon-based waste, including food waste, garbage, plastics and sludge from wastewater, and turn it into energy in terms of syngas, biofuels and heat. This produces charcoal, which exemplifies carbon capture, as it can be used to enrich soil or generate hydrogen gas for 'fuelling' fuel cells. Its return on investment packs a one-two punch: converting the syngas into electricity helps to cut down on fuel consumption, and avoiding waste incineration means that the ship produces fewer flue gases and will not need to discharge waste in port. Badin has hosted owners and shipyard operators to preview the system, and it is the cornerstone of the company's partnership with Virgin Voyages.
"For us, it's a matter of bringing that technology to the market as soon as possible, and we really feel with the build up of the full-scale test facility in Norway that we're on track to reach that target by next year," Badin says.
With new equipment, more efficient processes and an industry keen to see cleaner oceans, Badin is "enthusiastic" about the months to come.
"It's been a great period full of high spirits and a lot of wins. That's very good for us."