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Accurate monitoring essential for compliance - article in Ship & Offshore Magazine

Accurate monitoring essential for compliance - article in Ship & Offshore Magazine

Despite surveys reporting that large sections of the maritime industry are unprepared, and calls by some for a delay, the IMO confirmed at its April meeting (MEPC 72) that the implementation of the 0.5% sulphur cap on marine fuel would proceed as scheduled on 1st January 2020. Shipowners and operators now have barely 18 months to decide which route to compliance they must follow to meet MARPOL’s Annex VI regulations.

There is no “one size fits all approach” and the preferred solution for each shipowner will depend on the size, age and value of their fleet and may involve following a single choice or selecting different options for different vessels. LNG is primarily suited for newbuild vessels because of the installation process, but is due to be employed on just 1.2% of vessels currently on order. The substantial upfront capital investment required for LNG, coupled with concerns regarding the necessary global infrastructure and availability of bunkering facilities, is raising a number of questions regarding the viability of LNG as a compliance option.

Distillate or distillate-based low sulphur fuel is expected to be the most widespread option, although the availability and pricing of the new fuels is unknown. Maersk initially expects the cleaner fuels will add around $2 billion to its average $3.3 billion annual fuel bill across its global fleet. Concerns have also been raised around fuel quality, compatibility issues, and operational changes with existing engines, and so it remains unclear what impact distillates will have on the fuel market and on shipowners.  

Installing scrubbers allows shipowners and charterers to continue to burn lower cost heavy fuel oil (HFO) and so is an attractive compliance option. Installation costs range from $2m - $6m per unit so significant capital expenditure is required. However, the wide spread between the price of HFO and the more expensive marine gas oil (MGO) means that the cost of installing scrubbers could be recouped in just a few years. Executives at shipyards in China and Korea, where roughly 1,500 vessels of all types are being built or retrofitted to comply with the new rules, say about one-quarter are fitted with scrubbers.

Scrubber manufacturer Yara reported it had more than 400 scrubber inquiries last year, up from 100 in 2016, and inquiries exceeded 100 in the first two months of 2018. Around a third of the commercial shipping sector will have installed a scrubber system and will continue to burn sulphur fuel oil by 2030, according to a recent report by naval architecture and engineering consultants, Foreship.

A further boost for scrubbers came with the IMO agreeing draft amendments to MARPOL Annex VI that would prohibit the carriage of non-compliant high-sulphur fuel oil “used or carried for use on board ships”, except for ships fitted with an approved “equivalent arrangement” to meet the requirements of the sulphur limit.

For those considering making the investment in scrubbers, they will need to fully understand both the regulatory and operational implications, and will actively seek reassurance that making the investment to install a system will result in compliance with all applicable regulations. For scrubber manufacturers, the onus is on them to provide reliable proof that their systems are fit for purpose and will not create further regulatory complications for their customers. It is only though accurate monitoring that both of these criteria can be met.

Wet scrubbers use wash water to ‘clean’ emissions before they are released into the atmosphere. It is this water that must be accurately monitored at all times to avoid discharges that may exceed regulations and damage the environment.

Chelsea Technologies has direct and extensive experience of compliance testing and has an in-depth working knowledge of the high standards demanded by regulators. Chelsea's Sea Sentry provides a fully autonomous wash water monitoring system for both the water inlet and outlet of wet exhaust gas scrubber systems. Sea Sentry provides an accurate analysis of wash water by monitoring polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH), pH, turbidity (to ISO 7027:1999) and temperature to ensure that it is compliant with environmental regulations, which limit potentially high levels of contamination in the exhaust gas scrubber wash water discharge.

Both closed loop systems, and open loop systems operating at lower flow rates, present a challenge for PAH monitoring, as the wash water can become significantly coloured, making it difficult to obtain an accurate measurement. Because Chelsea manufactures its own optical sensors, algorithms have been integrated to correct PAH readings for sample absorbance, turbidity and temperature to ensure robust and accurate measurements are made in accordance with the regulatory requirements. If these readings are not accurate, owners are risking significant fines or detention.

Crews must have a thorough understanding of the regulations, monitoring procedures and the analysis and interpretation of the data. Chelsea works closely with shipowners, leading global scrubber manufacturers and the Exhaust Gas Cleaning Systems Association, to provide engineers with the knowledge and expertise they need to operate with the highest level of confidence in their system and in proving compliance under the IMO criteria. Sea Sentry's measurement methodology is certified by DNV-GL and ClassNK and is the gold standard solution for accurately measuring the required scrubber wash water parameters.

The 0.5% sulphur cap represents a seismic change for the maritime industry and regulation is already a concern for many. Shipowners failing to act now risk continuing uncertainty and the threat of fines and possible loss of trading opportunities for non-compliance, perhaps despite making the decision to invest in abatement technologies. It is essential for shipowners to not only consider the wider picture and understand every aspect of the legislation, but to be reassured that their decision to invest in proven scrubber technology will ensure compliance and mitigate any risk of fines or detentions.


Ship & Offshore  Accurate monitoring essential for compliance

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For more information please contact: Emma JohnsonEmma Johnson, Maritime & Hydrocarbon Manager
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