As a company that cleans up water and air, Calgon Carbon’s prospects are dependent on the pace of government regulators who tend to move deliberately. In the case of policing the ballast water that ships disgorge, that pace has been particularly glacial.
After 10 years, the finish line is in sight.
Sometime this year, enough countries are expected to approve regulations recommended by the International Maritime Organization to put the new standards into effect. That will open up what Calgon Carbon estimates will be a $28 billion market, as ship operators around the world work to comply with the rules designed to stop the spread of zebra mussels and other invasive species that can be transported in ballast water.
“When this thing takes off, the numbers are staggering,” said vice president John Platz. He heads up the Robinson company’s Hyde Marine unit, which makes systems that use ultraviolet light to clean up ballast water.
Mr. Platz expects the boom could create several hundred jobs at the company‘s UV equipment plant in Findlay, which currently employs more than 100. About 40 of them are production workers.
The company plans to expand the existing plant, located off McClaren Road, and add a new facility down the street, he said. Stainless steel components for the systems are made at the company’s Neville Island plant.
Ships use ballast to ensure a safer, steadier ride. As they unload cargo, ships take on ballast to replace the weight so that the propeller and rudder operate efficiently and the ship can move safely in rough waters. They release ballast when they take on cargo, which is what regulators are concerned about.
Taking on water in one port and releasing it in another can export one country’s nautical pests to the rest of the world.
The new regulations will require ships to treat ballast water in order to prevent the unwanted creatures from moving port-to-port. Mr. Platz said about 60,000 ships will need to treat their ballast water, including ocean freighters, cruise ships, ferries, tug boats and even about a dozen yachts that are big enough to require the systems.
While there are about a half-dozen technologies for treating ballast water, using UV light is the safest and simplest, according to Mr. Platz. About two-third of ship owners who have purchased systems so far have used UV equipment made by Hyde or its competitors, he said.
Calgon Carbon has been using UV light to remove cryptosporidium, giardia and other micro-organisms in drinking water for years. Unlike chlorine — which kills the micro-organisms — UV light scrambles their DNA, neutering the micro-organisms so that they cannot multiply or infect people.
In one system used by water treatment plants, six 20-kilovolt UV lamps are encased in quartz tubes that let the light pass through. Stainless steel brushes regularly scour the tubes so the light remains potent. Water flows past the tubes at rates of 6 feet per second or faster, enabling the system to treat 28,000 gallons of water per minute. (By comparison, a household spigot typically dispenses 3 gallons per minute.)
The International Maritime Organization, a United Nations agency, began the process of regulating ballast water in 2004. Calgon Carbon bought Hyde Marine, a Cleveland company whose 12 employees made UV systems for ships, in 2010.
Four years later, Calgon Carbon says it controls more than 10 percent of the market. If the regulations take effect as expected, the company anticipates ship owners overall will purchase about 12,000 systems annually from 2017 through 2019. Ships ordered about 100 systems in 2010 and 1,100 last year, the company said.
Last year, Calgon Carbon got orders for 60 systems. They can cost anywhere from $100,000 to $4 million, with those that process ballast water at faster rates costing more.
The regulations will be phased in starting one year after countries representing 35 percent of the world’s maritime cargo approve them. So far, about 40 countries have signed on. Pending approvals in Turkey and Japan would move the needle up to 32.5 percent of the world’s cargo, Mr. Platz said.
The U.S. Coast Guard and Environmental Protection Agency also regulate ballast water in domestic waters. Although the U.S. regulations were to be phased in beginning this year, the Coast Guard has granted about 140 waivers that let ship owners put off the investment. About 40 percent of the waivers went to companies that have bought ballast water treatment systems from Hyde in the past or asked for a quote on one, Mr. Platz.
“There would be more people working here now if not for those extensions,” he said.
Len Boselovic: 412-263-1941 or firstname.lastname@example.org