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 Reporter October 2014 Digital Edition
FREE Maritime Reporter Subscription
Latest Maritime News    rss feeds

Environmental

World’s First LNG-Ready Ultra Large Container Ship Named

The race is on in global maritime circles to be the “world’s first” in every aspect of environmental friendliness, particularly in regards to the incorporation of LNG as fuel onboard commercial ships.

NAVCENT Commander Recognizes Journey of Hope Sailors

Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet, Combined Maritime Forces, Vice Adm. John. W. Miller, recognized the accomplishments of three special-needs sailors from the Kuwaiti ship,

MSC Approves SOLAS Amendments

SOLAS amendments to make IGF Code mandatory approved by Maritime Safety Committee   The International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Maritime Safety Committee (MSC),

Marine Power

Wärtsilä Integrated Solutions for Maersk's AHTS Vessels

A new series of six Anchor Handling Tug Supply vessels to be built at the Kleven Verft AS in Norway for the Danish based Maersk Supply Service A/S - part of the A.

ClassNK Approves Niigata Dual-fuel Engine Design

Classification society ClassNK has granted approval to the design of the new 28AHX-DF dual-fuel engine developed by Niigata Power Systems Co., Ltd. The new engine

Karl Senner Inks Distribution Deal with Electronic Power Design

Karl Senner, LLC (KS) has reached a new strategic representation agreement with Electronic Power Design (EPD). Karl Senner, LLC now represents EPD in the United States marine and offshore Markets.

News

USCG Suspend Search for Crabber Near Anacortes, Wash.

The Coast Guard has suspended the search for a crabber reported overdue near Anacortes, Wednesday. Dean Harvey, 48, of Bremerton, remains missing. Search

Third Strike, Mansour Is Out

The M/V "MANSOUR M" with IMO number 7600586 has been banned for the 3rd time after subsequent detentions after the second refusal of access order in the Paris MoU region.

MHI Completes Development of "Sayaringo STaGE"

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. (MHI) has completed development of the "Sayaringo STaGE," a next-generation LNG (liquefied natural gas) carrier. The Sayaringo

Coast Guard

USCG Suspend Search for Crabber Near Anacortes, Wash.

The Coast Guard has suspended the search for a crabber reported overdue near Anacortes, Wednesday. Dean Harvey, 48, of Bremerton, remains missing. Search

Bollinger Delivers 11th FRC to the US Coast Guard

Bollinger Shipyards, Inc. has delivered the William Trump, the 11th Fast Response Cutter (FRC) to the United States Coast Guard.   The announcement was made by Bollinger Chief Operating Officer,

The Legal Consequences of 46 CFR Subchapter “M”

As the holiday season and the end of another year quickly approaches, the towing industry patiently waits for the Coast Guard to finalize the long-awaited towing vessel inspection rule.

Maritime Safety

USCG Suspend Search for Crabber Near Anacortes, Wash.

The Coast Guard has suspended the search for a crabber reported overdue near Anacortes, Wednesday. Dean Harvey, 48, of Bremerton, remains missing. Search

W&O, LESER Partner to Deliver Safety Relief Valves

W&O, a global supplier to the marine and upstream oil and gas markets for pipe, valves and fittings, valve automation and engineered solutions, has partnered with

Marine Insurance & the “Human Factor”

Insurance underwriters of diversified maritime exposures see a wide variety of approaches taken by vessel operators to manage human error to control risk. They

Government Update

WRRDA: Clearing the Channel for P3 Projects

A Creative Combination for Financing Inland Waterways Infrastructure Earlier this year, the U.S. maritime industry in general, and the inland waterways industry in particular,

EU: Ships Will Measure CO2 Emissions

Shippers to begin monitoring from 2018; Environmental groups say law is weak, shippers favorable. The shipping sector will for the first time have to monitor

Melbourne Box Pot Lining Up Bidders

Three of Australia's largest infrastructure funds plan to bid for the country's largest container terminal in a sale expected to fetch about A$5 billion ($4.27 billion) for Victoria state,

 
 
Maritime Careers / Shipboard Positions Maritime Contracts Navigation Pipelines Pod Propulsion Ship Electronics Ship Repair Ship Simulators Shipbuilding / Vessel Construction Sonar
rss | archive | history | articles | privacy | terms and conditions | 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: 0.2062 sec (5 req/sec)