A Closer Look at the Effects of ECAs

Marine News
Monday, January 06, 2014

It’s a fact: Emission Control Areas (ECA) clean up the air that we breathe. It’s also a good bet that someday, ECAs might be the primary cause of dirtier water.

 

That’s because the physical act of switching from fuel oil to cleaner burning distillates on oceangoing craft is anything but a routine event for some vessels. But, don’t take our word for it – the State of California does a pretty good job of recordkeeping, and the numbers don’t lie.

 
It’s probably a good thing, then, that the U.S. Coast Guard in September published the long anticipated Non-tank Vessel Response Plan (NTVRP) and Other Response Plan regulations. Mandatory compliance will be required by January 30, 2014. This impacts self-propelled non-tank vessels of 400 gross tons or greater that operate in navigable waters of the United States and carry oil as fuel for main propulsion. The heightened level of preparedness should serve the industry well, especially given the troubling numbers coming out the Golden State. Workboats, salvage and response firms in greater numbers than ever will have to be at the ready.

The latest statistics chronicling Loss of Propulsion (LOP) incidents for deep draft vessels entering California waters show a recent (and marked) increase in this type of casualty. Indeed, and if the current trend continues, California could see its highest LOP totals since data on this type of thing began to be compiled in 2004. The numbers are important because California, unlike many places right now, requires ships to switch from fuel oil to cleaner burning distillates when they come within 24 miles of the California coast. But, other ECAs are coming, too. Beneath the raw data lurks troubling root causes and, perhaps, a glimmer of hope, as well.

The local California fuel switching rules have been in effect since 2009. And, although the requirement did not come into effect until July of that year, the number of LOP’s almost immediately tripled, as compared to the previous year. Today’s LOP numbers remain consistently high, as compared to pre-2009 rates, with the highest number seen in 2011, when it spiked all the way to 93 incidents. That metric was likely due to increased reporting requirements, closer scrutiny from California state regulatory personnel and better recordkeeping by the vessels themselves. Alarmingly, and although the numbers dipped precipitously last year (63), this year’s rate of incident reports could eclipse that seen in 2011.

 

LOP’s can occur because of poor fuel quality, incompetent engineroom staff, and/or poor engine maintenance. It’s a fact of life that the loss of sulphur in the distillates also equates to loss of lubricity in the fuel itself. Just as the automobile industry had to deal with the loss of lubricity when the elimination of lead occurred decades ago, today’s vessels are dealing with similar issues. The differences in viscosity of the two fuels add another variable to the issue. HFO is very forgiving of worn parts due the high viscosity of the fuel while the distillate isn’t forgiving at all. If crews are really keeping up their machinery as their paperwork attests, then why are we still experiencing this higher level of LOPs?

 

California records show more than 300 LOP incidents in CA waters since 2009, with fully one-third of those confirmed as being related to fuel switching procedures. The real danger is where these incidents are taking place – close in and often in pilot waters in proximity to shallow drafts and navigation hazards. More telling, perhaps, is that fully 79 vessels have failed to comply with local fuel switching regulations, citing “safety exemptions,” something that should give regulators everywhere pause when they contemplate future and stricter ECA zone(s). In the case of a safety exemption, the vessel remains burning HFO going into the berth and sometimes, going out, too. The practice of switching fuel sources on the fly involves risk and it requires skill. That as many as 100 ships in California waters in the past four years alone haven’t gotten it right is ample testimony to that.

 

Finally, a more obscure statistic – obtained from reliable sources who did not want to be identified for the purposes of this article – involves the fact that first time visitors to California waters experienced LOP failures when switching over to distillates as much as 30 percent of the time. Hence, like anything else, ship’s engineers get better at the procedure with practice. As ECAs come into effect all over the globe, these numbers loom all the more important. Also according to our source(s), the LOP numbers probably have as much to do with maintenance which, although immaculate paperwork often indicates is being done properly, is anything but. Still, and despite the fact that LOP’s have increased threefold since 2009, the Coast Guard still maintains that less than half are attributed to fuel. In January of 2015, and when the NAECA comes into play, ships will be switching 200 miles offshore California. So, in many respects, and no matter what you think of the California environmental lobby, the state is the perhaps the leading indicator of what could come next. On one hand, future LOP problems will likely occur some 200 miles offshore in deep water and with time to rectify problems before the vessel begins the all important inbound pilotage leg. That’s a good thing.

 

California’s recordkeeping gives insight into quantifying the issues which arise when one regulation, intended to obviate one problem, inadvertently causes another. Global classification society DNV said recently that as much as 50 percent of the world’s maritime fleet could be dual fuel-powered, as early as 2020. That’s an optimistic look at the future of LNG as a fuel, but also concedes that half of the global fleet will still be running on other fuels. As operators wean themselves from heavy fuel oil, fuel switching within so-called ECAs will remain fraught with danger.

 

Until we clean up the way we power the vessels that crisscross the seven seas, ECAs and fuel switching will remain as part of the environmental solution. This, and the new nontank rules mean more business for workboats, salvage and response folks. In the meantime, let’s just hope that cleaner air doesn’t eventually translate into a preventable casualty that means dirtier water.
The rest of the data can be seen on the State of California’s Fish & Wildlife website:  https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=38374&inline=true


(As published in the December 2013 edition of Marine News - www.marinelink.com)
 

Maritime Today


The Maritime Industry's original and most viewed E-News Service

Maritime Reporter April 2016 Digital Edition
FREE Maritime Reporter Subscription
Latest Maritime News    rss feeds

Environmental

Wind-powered Oil Recovery Project Green-lighted

The DNV GL-led WIN WIN Joint Industry Project (JIP), which melds offshore wind with offshore oil and gas, shows that for suitable fields,finds that  wind-powered

Oil Spill in Schuylkill River

The U.S. Coast Guard and partner agencies are responding Tuesday to an oil sheen in the Schuylkill River.   The Coast Guard received a report of a sheen on the

Crowley Acquires Ace Fuels Assets in Anchorage

Anchorage-based Crowley Fuels yesterday completed an asset acquisition of the aviation fuels business of Ace Fuels, LLC, a fixed base operator (FBO) headquartered

Fuels & Lubes

WSS Offers ‘One Stop Shop’ Approach to Bunkering

Ship operators who rely on a myriad of companies for their global bunkering needs are wasting time, money and energy, with no guarantee of standardized quality of products and services,

Crowley Acquires Ace Fuels Assets in Anchorage

Anchorage-based Crowley Fuels yesterday completed an asset acquisition of the aviation fuels business of Ace Fuels, LLC, a fixed base operator (FBO) headquartered

Oil Rally is Not Just About Hedge Funds: Kemp

Oil prices are becoming dangerously overheated as speculators anticipate a rebalancing of supply and demand that has barely started, according to many oil analysts.

Marine Power

GE Gas Turbines for Japan's New Warship

GE's Marine Solutions announced it will provide IHI, Tokyo, Japan, with two LM2500 aeroderivative marine gas turbines for the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force's (JMSDF) new 8,

WSS Offers ‘One Stop Shop’ Approach to Bunkering

Ship operators who rely on a myriad of companies for their global bunkering needs are wasting time, money and energy, with no guarantee of standardized quality of products and services,

Islamic Militants Free Indonesian Sailors

Ten Indonesian tugboat crewmen held by the Abu Sayyaf terror gang in the southern Philippines were freed unharmed Sunday.   The sailors arrived in Jakarta late on Sunday night,

News

Libya Eastern Oil Company Blocks Tanker Loading Crude for Tripoli Rival

An oil company set up by Libya's eastern government is preventing a tanker from loading a cargo for its Tripoli rival, the National Oil Corporation (NOC), officials said on Tuesday.

CRMG Cranes Arrive in Mersey for Liverpool2

First six of 22 to be installed at £300m terminal; arrival marks end of 13,730 mile (11,930nm) journey from Nantong, China   The first six cantilever rail-mounted

UN to Start Inspecting Commercial Shipments to Yemen

The United Nations will start inspecting shipments to rebel-held ports in Yemen in a bid to boost commercial imports and enforce an arms embargo, the world body said on Tuesday,

Coast Guard

US Coast Guard to Unveil Historic Lifeboat

A ceremony unveiling a historic lifeboat as a new static display in Chatham, Mass. is scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday at U.S. Coast Guard Station Chatham.   The

Oil Spill in Schuylkill River

The U.S. Coast Guard and partner agencies are responding Tuesday to an oil sheen in the Schuylkill River.   The Coast Guard received a report of a sheen on the

113 Migrants Drown in Libya-Italy Weekend Transits

An estimated 113 people died in four shipwrecks between Libya and Italy at the weekend as the crossing becomes the preferred sea route for migrants to Europe, the

Maritime Safety

American Waterways Operators Elects Chairman

The members of the American Waterways Operators, the national trade association representing the tugboat, towboat and barge industry, elected a new slate of leaders

Barge Master Wins Innovation Award at OTC

The Barge Master T40 motion compensated knuckle boom crane has been recognized for technological innovation, winning the Spotlight on New Technology Small Business

113 Migrants Drown in Libya-Italy Weekend Transits

An estimated 113 people died in four shipwrecks between Libya and Italy at the weekend as the crossing becomes the preferred sea route for migrants to Europe, the

Government Update

Libya Eastern Oil Company Blocks Tanker Loading Crude for Tripoli Rival

An oil company set up by Libya's eastern government is preventing a tanker from loading a cargo for its Tripoli rival, the National Oil Corporation (NOC), officials said on Tuesday.

UN to Start Inspecting Commercial Shipments to Yemen

The United Nations will start inspecting shipments to rebel-held ports in Yemen in a bid to boost commercial imports and enforce an arms embargo, the world body said on Tuesday,

US Leaders Work toward Supply Chain Innovation

The Federal Maritime Commission’s (FMC) Supply Chain Innovation Team Initiative, led by Commissioner Rebecca F. Dye, was launched today at FMC headquarters in Washington, D.

 
 
Maritime Contracts Maritime Security Maritime Standards Navigation Pipelines Pod Propulsion Port Authority Ship Electronics Ship Simulators Winch
rss | archive | history | articles | privacy | contributors | top maritime news | about us | copyright | maritime magazines
maritime security news | shipbuilding news | maritime industry | shipping news | maritime reporting | workboats news | ship design | maritime business

Time taken: 0.2434 sec (4 req/sec)