Environmental Safety

The bunker industry is undergoing the most extensive change since the conversion from coal to liquid fuels as a result of the reduction in harmful emissions. This is being driven by the growing awareness of the damage to the environment being caused by pollutants from shipping. As practically all other sectors and particularly land transportation have drastically reduced emissions, the spotlight has shifted to the marine sector and procedures have now been established to reduce emissions at sea.

Since the 1960s, heavy fuel oil (HFO) has been the king of marine fuels. Viscous, dirty, yet inexpensive and widely available, HFO propelled a long period of robust growth in international shipping, which carries over 90% of intercontinental trade by volume each year. For many, it is the lifeblood maritime shipping industry.

However, HFO’s low price does not reflect its impact on the environment and human health.

The clean-up process mandated by a series of national and international regulations commenced in 2006 and will continue for another decade and beyond to diversify the industry away from HFO into cleaner fuels with less harmful effects on the environment and human health. There are unknowns in these regulations that make it more difficult for both the supply and consuming sides to plan and, as a result, there is a reluctance to commit to either ship-borne solutions or investments in refinery capability to convert higher sulphur residual to lower sulphur fuels, predominately distillates.

The key change is the use of fuel with a sulphur content of less than 0.10% from the beginning of 2015 in the Emission Control Areas (ECA) that encompass the Baltic and North Seas, and the English Channel, and areas 200 nautical miles off the shores of North America and off Puerto Rico in the Caribbean.

By the way, typical technical problems experienced by shipowners when they are required to use lowsulphur fuels include issues with the supply and storage of lowsulphur fuel, problems with machinery operation when using lowsulphur fuel, incompatibility between fuel types, and difficulties and delays when changing over from one fuel type to another.

To avoid such problems, shipowners should consult their engine and boiler manufacturers for advice on operating with lowsulphur fuel and the need for any equipment and system modification. On each ship the fuel change-over procedure should be clearly defined and understood.

Sea pollution caused by the ships, is characteristically an international issue. Pioneer of the agreements signed internationally to protect the seas is called MARPOL (The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships).

Not only the harmful emissions caused by the bunkers and the lubes for sure!

This agreement prepared by IMO (International Marine Organization) has two main goals; minimizing the risk of international pollution caused by sewage, wastes, petrol, toxic liquids, harmful packing materials and accidential pollution caused by vessels. For the realization of the subject, countries should take essential technical precautions in transporting and managing vessels in terms of administration, generate and keep ready port and sea plants including teams and complete regulations for organizational formation if needed.