Building a self-contained wastewater treatment facility on a barge: on time and on-budget. Bibby Maritime Limited, a venerable and highly regarded English shipping firm, is known for their “Coastels,” floating hotels on barges. Coastels have many applications, some examples: as temporary workers’ housing during construction projects, as permanent housing for prisons, or shelter after natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina.

Bibby Maritime has a wonderful advertising tagline: “For instant accommodation, just add water,” but load a Coastel to capacity with 1,000 workers and move to a remote location for an extended period with no access to local sewer, and wastewater disposal becomes a critical and costly issue.

Chevron Oil Company struggled with this problem when they contracted Bibby to use a Coastel for 750 workers during the construction of a multi-billion dollar natural gas plant in Escravos, Nigeria. The remote location had no local sewer, and both local land-based pump and haul and ship-based pump and haul options were cost prohibitive. The boat was projected to be on site for at least 5 years.

Schedules to get the barge in place were tight and so was the budget. The problem for Chevron was how to create an on-board septic system appropriate to marine applications on short notice? SludgeHammer had shown Chevron its stripes after Hurricane Katrina, and once again they turned to us.


SludgeHammer’s Aerobic Bacterial Generator ( ABG ) technology and modular components. The answer was to build a self-contained septic system on the Bibby Progress utilizing SludgeHammer technology. Processed effluent meeting MARPOL and Lloyds of London standards would be discharged back into the ocean allowing the barge to stay put for extended periods and negating need for a land based septic system or pump and haul by truck or ship.

We mobilized in no time. The SludgeHammer team headed off to Rotterdam where Bibby began the retrofit work to ready the barge. Local plumbing sources were located and SludgeHammer ABG units started arriving from the US. We were surprised to see this rather humble looking barge was topped by first class hotel accommodations.

The work went smoothly. In less than one month in Rotterdam, our able crew had constructed an on-board wastewater treatment facility designed for 750 workers which could process over 50,000 gallons of water per day which would be discharged back into the ocean.

Then came the fun. After a two-month tow of the Bibby Progress to Nigeria, the SludgeHammer crew flew in to commission the system. We showed up in this exotic locale wearing t-shirts which warned any local kidnappers, “You don’t want us, we just fix toilets.” And, indeed, we were left alone. Even in this remote spot the simplicity of the SludgeHammer technology made getting the facilities up and running a relatively simple project.

Its human value fully sunk in when, as we walked up to the ship, a crew member yelled out, “Hey guys, the turd herders are here!!” Like kids in a candy store, they picked out their staterooms and marveled at the amenities like running water and flushing toilets. It’s nice to have satisfied the need to flush.