The Battle Against Plastic: What Are The Alternatives?

The first IMPA SAVE webinar served as an introduction to the IMPA SAVE initiative and dealt with the council’s first milestone: reducing the use of single-use plastic drinking water bottles onboard the world’s fleet. If you have missed it, you can now watch the recording here or read the full transcript below.

Clean Verbatim Transcript

Stephen Aexander, IMPA: Hello, ladies and gentlemen. I am broadcasting live from the IMPA office, here in the UK. Welcome to the first IMPA SAVE webinar from the SAVE Council for Sustainability in the Supply Chain. I would just like to mention a few points before we start the session.

We are scheduled for around 30 minutes or so, as we appreciate how busy you all are. We are posting regular updates about the IMPA SAVE initiative through the website,, and I would encourage you to register your interest there. This is just the start of us bringing more collaborative working group initiatives around sustainability.

As you know, IMPA has experience in this arena through the IMPA ACT programme and so we are now looking to develop a wider programme around environmental care and responsibility. I know that many of you have been busy during this pandemic time, and it has certainly been the same with the IMPA office, and this initiative is our latest and perhaps most ambitious programme so far.

For the supply chain, the opportunities to make an impact on the environment are tremendous and – if you like the concept – green sourcing is becoming more and more relevant for our sector: single-use plastic, packaging, waste management, recycling, logistics and delivery procedures are all issues facing us right now. And we believe procurement teams have a special responsibility to influence what happens throughout the supply chain, and suppliers also need to adapt to the changing environment and ensure that these needs can be met.

Our purpose with IMPA SAVE is to support the call to action for the UN Sustainable Development Goals and bring knowledge of available solutions to the industry. This is what we will be doing today and Mikael will be introducing this in a few moments.

We want to take action now. We want to facilitate responsible procurement, engaging with companies, organisations and people who will support better solutions for life below and above water.

Just before I hand over, I would like to introduce you to the IMPA SAVE council; that is Susan Koefoed, the IMPA Chair and CEO and Purchase Manager at Weco Shipping, Dorthe Mejlvang of Maersk Procurement, John Beck of Wilhelmsen Ship Management, Marinos Kokkinis of Oceanic Catering and Allan Muir of Teekay Shipping who unfortunately cannot join us today because of a project he had to take care of.

There is also an opportunity to ask questions on the chat if anyone wants to do this. Without further ado, I would like to hand over to Mikael Karlsson who is the Chair of IMPA SAVE and IMPA Special Ambassador for Sustainability, and he is known to many of you.

Mikael Karlsson, Francois Marine: Thank you, Stephen. I hope everyone can hear me well.

First of all, I am humbled and proud to see today’s support for our IMPA initiative. Our planet needs us all, and today marks the first of many initiatives that all of you can support in the workspace and incentivise those around you to do the same. This is our call to action to reduce plastic water drinking bottles on our ships; I am aware that many companies have already taken steps to reduce use of plastic water bottles onboard, but please pledge and be part of this great initiative. To drive the industry in the same direction, we need your pledge to change.

I also want to tell you why I got involved in this, as there have been a few questions even from my family and kids. I decided to get involved when I watched a BBC documentary from the Lord Howe Island, a remote island located in the Tasman Sea, 600 miles away from Australia. There, I watched a team catching hundreds of birds and chicks and physically flush them with water through their stomachs to give them a chance to survive. What cam up was plastic – and a lot of it – bits and pieces, and even whole bottle caps. And what made matters worse is that the mother and daddy seabirds were feeding the chicks plastic because they confused it with food. And that, for me, was enough to react. I was almost devastated when I saw it and it still really hurts when I see it. I will send out the link to this.

Our IMPA SAVE team have gathered that an average vessel with 22 people onboard consumes, with each individual consuming 2.2 litres of drinking water per day, 18 tons of water per year. Now I am in the supply industry, which means we are delivering an average of 18,000 one-litre bottles. On average, one thousand litres of water will fit on a pallet, which equals 18 pallets that leave 1,500 boxes of cardboard and plastic as additional waste.

Now picture a bridge, 50 cm wide, built by water plastic bottles from the earth to the moon. Now picture that 20 times and the bridge is 10 metres wide – the same as three lanes on the motorway – this is plastic just for water bottles our industry has used since the millennia. This equals 20 billion one-litre plastic bottles or 800 tons of plastic waste, most of which is not probably recycled and of which we all share responsibility.

We have the solution at hand and we are now beginning a journey of making the means to an end fit. Many vessels can today produce water and adding new technologies as filtration systems to this, so that the water is clean to drink. And this is what we will be talking about today.

I urge each one of you to pledge and act on today’s issue, our call to action and influence our own companies and industry players that are missing today’s call. Please engage online, ask questions, be curious, act and care, and really, do it because you can – that is my pledge to you all.

Thank you.

Stephen Alexander, IMPA: Thanks, Mikael.

Those are emotive pictures that you paint for us there and I am sure they resonate with a great number of listeners and viewers today. I know there are many people who want to get involved to make a difference.

I am really delighted this morning to introduce two companies that are doing something about this and have these solutions, and the purpose of this webinar is to find out more about them. I would like to introduce Mark Knoester from Hatenboer-Water BV and Mark Hadfield of Flow Water Technologies Ltd.

We have got a series of questions that we would like to put to you and there might be a few others that come from the chat as well.

Stephen Alexander, IMPA: Can we kick off with a brief explanation of your solutions or your products? Could you tell us what they are, what they look like and how they work?

Mark Knoester, Hatenboer-Water BV: To make a transition from bottled water to drinking water on the ship, we have set up a complete concept with several products accommodating it. One part of the solution is hardware and one part is the software. The hardware is in various components, like the filling station, the stainless steel water bottles, filtering steps, etc. The software consists of procedures such as product analyses, onsite marketing and risk assessments, e.g. safety plans onboard which result in onboard policy to keep the drinking water of sufficient quality.

All our products are focused on safe water onboard, but the key is to reduce plastic bottles. And even if the water is safe to drink and compliant with the applicable regulations of the flag state of the ship, it is not always granted the crew will directly accept that the water is safe to drink. This is why we need a mixture of hardware and software, including marketing. We see success when there is an ambassador onboard the ship who promotes the water as being safe to drink.

Our bottle-filling stations, the hardware side, are designed to withstand maritime conditions, have a totally contact-free filling mode (which is especially important now in the COVID-19 period)and are equipped with a filter status indicator to ensure that the crew sees that the water is filtered. The filter can block 99.9 per cent of the bacteria. Another good part of the machine is a green ticker, this counts bottles and presents a number on the machines, telling you how much you reduced. What we are seeing at present is a competition starting between vessels on who saved the most plastic bottles.

How do we make sure the water dispersed by the water filling station is safe? One option is to find safe water from production to consumption, i.e. the complete process, while the other option is a filtration unit next to the bottle filling station. What is the best approach? That really depends on the quality of ship sanitation onboard. However, it is worth bearing in mind that water is already safe (or close to safe) to drink onboard most vessels. We see numerous instances where we can provide safe water onboard with some very simple equipment and some minor adjustments. We always look to find the most economical way to make plastic bottles a thing of the past.

Mark Hadfield, Flow Water Technologies Ltd: We took the approach to not repeat some of the things that the other Mark has mentioned. The crew wants to know that they are getting good-quality water. Irrespective of the filtration methods that we had to use, one of the important things was to get the taste and acceptance ready for the crew. We trialled several units that we worked with and came up with an ultra-filtration process that allowed us to provide the safe drinking water, but that was also something that the crew could actually operate correctly, e.g. easy-to-change filters, the practicality that there will be no breakdowns, no power supply on the drinking water side, etc.

And we took the solution even a stage further because sanitisation is very important when it comes to drinking water; in other words, you cannot just pop to the corner shop and get some disinfectant. So we added a disinfection production system to our drinking water solution; we now have an ultra-filtration which kills 99.9 per cent of the bacteria and a disinfection system that has all the European standards (ECHA registered, EN certificates, etc.) that produces a solution that kills 99.999 per cent of the bacteria, so we are able to clean when changing filters. They also have sanitisation there and it provides a cleaning and disinfection solution for use in the galley and cabins and just everywhere else as well.

Stephen Alexander, IMPA:  What do these things look like physically and where do they sit on the ship?

Mark Hadfield, Flow Water Technologies Ltd: Our units are about a meter wide, about 40 cm high and sticking out by about 25 cm. They are not big units and we have the ability – for a cost – to separate the drinking water from the disinfection unit, as there is no need to have a disinfection unit with the water unit on every station. This makes it an even smaller unit.

Marinos Kokkinis, Oceanic Catering:  Do these solutions need to be classified or registered?

Mark Hadfield, Flow Water Technologies Ltd: My particular opinion, while we are in the process of getting type approval for our ballast water system, is that there should be more stringent regulations when it comes to drinking water systems. We are already in contact with class and we are speaking to them – a bit of an advisory on both ways – on which way to go. There isn’t a call for class certifications, but I do think it will give confidence to shipowners and crew. While my colleague Mark here is an ally in stopping plastics going to sea, there will inevitably be companies that will offer inferior products that could cause ill health to a crew member, and we need to safeguard ourselves in the industry.

Mark Knoester, Hatenboer-Water BV: Indeed, no classification or registration is required now, as Mark has already said. But we must not forget that the quality of drinking water onboard is managed by a ship’s sanitation regulation, the flag state’s; this is how it is implemented now. So you have all following the ship sanitation regulation and then you work on the safety of water onboard.

It is not a classification or registration, but you must follow the ship sanitation regulations. There are some countries that do not even have the ship regulations implemented in their own country, so they say you have to follow WHO advice on how to keep water onboard, and that is quite complicated. In my opinion, all countries that are involved in ship sanitation regulations, have to implement their own regulations in their countries/flag states.

Stephen Alexander, IMPA: The hardware, as you described it, does it need a pre-existing solution onboard in order for your solution to be incorporated? If yes, do you offer both?

Mark Knoester, Hatenboer-Water BV: This completely depends on the water quality onboard. If there is a good working system, e.g. desalinisation unit with a good treatment and a filtration set, disinfection sets in the engine room, etc., it can be perfectly healthy to drink from the tap point without any modifications. We have several solutions for this; our organisation offers both, but it all starts in the engine room at the desalinisation unit.

Dorthe Mejlvang, Maersk Procurement: Does this hardware need regular maintenance work? How about testing?

Mark Hadfield, Flow Water Technologies Ltd: Every ship is completely different. This is a brand new subject to a lot of vessels and the maintenance of the vessels and the hygiene onboard the vessel is going to be different in every circumstance. We started with the worst case scenario and advise that filters should be changed more frequently than necessary, as each vessel starts to understand this new subject, i.e. filtration against bottle water.

In our advice, they will soon understand that maybe filters don’t need to be changed as often and there are signs in the instructions and things to look out for, like slime in the pre-filters and signs of possible legionella. The vessel should also carry onboard a legionella test kit. There are signs and suggestions that every six months, filters should be changed, but there is a bit of looseness around the ruling. Is it actually six months legally to change filters or 12 months? There isn’t actually a defined answer. So our answer to this is that at the six-month mark, it should be changed, but if the law states 12 months, there is no legionella, filters are flowing and everything is clean, the service life can be extended. Again, every ship is different and every one is going to find a different way forward. We give the relevant instructions. We do not just want to change the filters because it is profit for the manufacturer. In this pandemic, we need to think about everything.

Mark Knoester, Hatenboer-Water BV: Testing is a good topic. We need to test more often than six-months onsite. Every commercial ship is required to have a water safety plan under MLC 2006. There is also onboard testing equipment for onsite testing that gives you quick and reliable impressions of the health of the drinking water system. This is so you can act fast before the quality of the water drops to below drinking water standards. Try to work according to your water safety plan and that is identical for a ship if the ship sanitation is maintained. There is not much else to test, maybe disinfection like PH and chlorine. But it is all in your water safety plan.

Dorthe Mejlvang, Maersk Procurement: There are certain areas of the world where the ocean water is deemed undrinkable. When I talk to Maersk crew, this seems to be a big problem, not mentally. What is your take on this?

Mark Hadfield, Flow Water Technologies Ltd: The water around the world obviously changes and no place is the same. The equipment; this is part of the education for the crew. If you have an evaporator, the water that has been evaporated is very clean pure water. The sanitisation or the bit where it is unpalatable is down to vessel and how the water is stored. That is why we have added a mineralisation filter and to obviously give some flavour and taste back. But filtering in a way that if you have evaporated water which is too pure is not good to drink, so the mineralisation filter will have the correct level of minerals.

If you bunkered the water, the water that came on the bunker should come with a certificate that it was potable water in the first place. But if a vessel has got a system that is allowing seawater to ingress into the drinking water, you have got a problem, it is a fault and it should not be allowed. It is not the drinking water system or the solution, it is proof that there is a problem and that it should be addressed.

Stephen Alexander, IMPA: I think it is important to discuss about these issues and it seems to be a relatively simple process to manage onboard for the crew.

Mark Hadfield, Flow Water Technologies Ltd: We keep it simple for anybody to operate and we have done it as simply as we possibly could. We have done large numbers of trials and we even put units on vessels without instructions, deliberately created a fault and waited to see if the crew could rectify the problem; and they managed. The complicated issue here is beforehand, with the evaporator or the RO systems that some vessels have; if these systems are not capable of dealing with seawater to a standard, then they have to look at an operator, an improved RO system or bunkering the water in the first place.

Mark Knoester, Hatenboer-Water BV: You also have the perception of crew to think about. You also need a marketing tool onboard, so that there are a few people, e.g. the engineer, captain, etc., who can promote that the water is safe to drink. But of some importance is that there is a perception from the crew that the water is not safe to drink. We have some analyses we can do onboard and we can certify it is safe to drink. You can display this certificate on the wall next to the filling station and you can also put this on the bottles. You have to do all these to comfort them.

John Beck, Wilhelmsen Ship Management: How do we help to communicate these things to the crew and overcome challenges and fears that they might have? Advice?

Mark Knoester, Hatenboer-Water BV: We are working with QR codes on the bottles themselves, which take you to the website that helps convince them the water is safe onboard. We also have promoting tools, such as a green tick on the filling stations and a led light that shows the water is filtered. It is not granted, unfortunately, that everyone will be fine with that. Filipinos, for instance, do not drink tap water at home, so why would they do so onboard? It is a change in mentality, as is for many of us.

Marinos Kokkinis, Oceanic Catering: I believe that the shipowner, ship manager or caterer is responsible to create a campaign in order to create a culture change. This burden does not fall on the vendor, but on the manager/owner/caterer. They should be the ones providing these services, as it will help if awareness is created through flyers and materials describing the system and procedure. Testing also gives the crew comfort and will help greatly.

Mark Hadfield, Flow Water Technologies Ltd: With the current pandemic, we have also got on our hands something that every shipowner and ship management company should be embracing right now. You have finally got your audience’s attention. All the seafarers out there who were not able to be exchanged on crews are nervous about products being brought on to the vessels, not knowing whether there is COVID on things. You have now got an audience that is there and ready to embrace change.

One of the things we have found in one of our recent trials is that the drinking water is there for the crew to make a decision, but we also have the disinfection system on there, and every crew member is getting their own dispensing bottle. The crew members are willing to take this onboard and the drinking water seems to come on naturally. That is it. The crew are with you. We should focus now while we have the world’s attention. The whole momentum should now be from the shipowner to the ship manager; the more people are talking about it, the easier the move will be.

Boris Bade, Oldendorff: Can we talk ROI or return on investment, both from a sustainability viewpoint and a practical one?

Mark Knoester, Hatenboer-Water BV: It really depends on the extent of our solution. Generally, with a simple set up, the ROI is less than two years. When more complex systems are required, we would have to calculate it on a case-by-case basis.

Mark Hadfield, Flow Water Technologies Ltd: We have had some calculations done by some major companies and we did not want to just capture the drinking water, but also the disinfectant side as well. If you take into account the extra chemical bottles that you will remove by taking one of our systems, the ROI is actually months rather than years.

Stephen Alexander, IMPA: In summary, there are practical solutions that can be put onboard, which offer sensible times for ROI, are manageable, relatively easy to maintain and are healthy, effective and sustainable. Mikael?

Mikael Karlsson, Francois Marine: Yes. There is commercial ROI and, more importantly, a sustainability ROI. From a procurement perspective, we are right on target, so for me it is a matter of getting started which also leads to another question.

Mikael Karlsson, Francois Marine: Is there a testing period/limit on these solutions? What is the suggested number for initial trial?

Mark Knoester, Hatenboer-Water BV: The recommendation is to start on two vessels, and after a certain period, one can make some adjustments and, from then onwards, you can roll it out to all other ships.

Mark Hadfield, Flow Water Technologies Ltd: We have done trials and they have been successful. We are happy to talk to all. Guys, we have one planet and two solutions here. Talk to us!

Stephen Alexander, IMPA: This is happening. You have got solutions on ships being tested right now and I have spoken to some of your customers who are very happy with how things are moving.

Paolo Magonio, Scorpio Group: Referencing the installation/weak link is the distribution system from the filtering unit to the filling station, the cleanliness, etc. What is your opinion on the installation of additional refrigerated water fountains after the filtering units?

Mark Hadfield, Flow Water Technologies Ltd: It can be done and we can have fountains if need be. This is no problem.

Mark Knoester, Hatenboer-Water BV: Our installation is already a filter inside the bottle filling station, but we can have additional stations you can place that are approved. But you have to find the source of why the water is not safe to drink, e.g. corrosion, to address the problem in the engine room.

Stephen Alexander, IMPA: We need to draw to a close now. Anything to add, Mikael?

Mikael Karlsson, Francois Marine: On the website, there is a pledge button and I urge everyone who has the opportunity, possibility and will, to pledge for this so we can drive this movement in the right direction. We already have pledges prior to this, which I am immensely thankful for, but we all need to step in this space and make a change. And we must not look at each other in doing so, but take action ourselves and get it done. And if you need help within your organisation, for instance how to get to the point, how to talk to technical operations or environmental managers and why this is important, reach out to us. We have the IMPA Blog available at where you can reach out for questions that will not be left unanswered. You can reach out to me, the team, Mark Knoester or Mark Hadfield for questions, but please get on board with this programme. We have more coming and this is just a start.

Stephen Alexander, IMPA: This is indeed just the beginning of the initiative. People are asking about where they can find contact details. Can I just direct everyone to the website for contacts? Thank you to Mark Knoester, Mark Hadfield, Mikael and the IMPA SAVE council and everyone joining today.

More webinars are coming in the following months, perhaps one after the summer, and we hope we can get together face-to-face soon. I want to say thank you once more and wish you a safe and happy day.