Vela Supertanker Aldebaran Star The Vela Supertanker Aldebaran Star
Photograph Contributed by Saudi Aramco

DUBAI, U.A.E. (December 11, 2004) - Vela International Marine Ltd. has won the 2004 Innovation in Shipping Award for an invention that offers an environmentally friendly and relatively inexpensive method of exchanging ballast water.

The award came Dec. 6, during the first Dubai International Maritime Awards dinner, organized by Seatrade, a publications and events company specializing in maritime activity.

The award-winning innovation, Automated Ballast Exchange system, or Aubalex, invented by Vela's Capt. Tom J. Scott, is a method for replacing existing ballast water in the ballast tanks of a ship while the ship is under way.

Aubalex uses a seawater inlet port in the bow of the ship that admits water when the ship is moving, to produce a pressure that is greater than the pressure of the ballast water that is to be replaced. It received a U.S. patent this year.

The Seatrade award went to the project "with the potential significantly to improve efficiency of any aspect of ships' operations and/or cargo handling." Projects were to be judged on their "originality, imagination and perceived practicality."

Aubalex meets the International Maritime Organization's Ballast Water Management Convention regulations, intended to prevent ecological damage from invasive species in ships' ballast water.

The award was judged by a panel that included Efthimios Mitropoulos, IMO's secretary-general; Duncan McElvie, chairman of the Nautical Institute's UAE branch; Jitendra Misra, chairman of the Chartered Institute of Shipbrokers; and Richard Wyborn, chairman of the Institute of Marine Engineers, Science and Technology.

Three other companies were short-listed for the award.

Other awards presented at the dinner were for Safety and Quality in Shipping, Port Operations, Countering Marine and Atmospheric Pollution, Education and Training, Dubai Cruise Award and the Seatrade Personality of the Year for West and Central Asia.