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)
 


Environmental

NParks, Keppel in S$2.08 mln Partnership for Restoring Singapore Forest Wetlands

The National Parks Board (NParks) and Keppel Corporation today unveiled plans for a partnership to restore the freshwater forest wetland ecosystem historically

C-Job Designs Flettner Freighter for Switijnk

The Dutch shipping company family Switijnk has contracted C-Job Naval Architects to develop a Rotor Sail-equipped design to meet their specific loading and sailing profile.

Vitol's Malaysia Terminal Suspends Ops after Spill

VTTI, the storage unit of world's largest oil trader Vitol, has suspended operations at its terminal in southern Malaysia following an oil spill, two industry sources said on Friday.

Fuels & Lubes

C-Job Designs Flettner Freighter for Switijnk

The Dutch shipping company family Switijnk has contracted C-Job Naval Architects to develop a Rotor Sail-equipped design to meet their specific loading and sailing profile.

Vitol's Malaysia Terminal Suspends Ops after Spill

VTTI, the storage unit of world's largest oil trader Vitol, has suspended operations at its terminal in southern Malaysia following an oil spill, two industry sources said on Friday.

Viking Grace Marks 1,000 LNG Bunkering Milestone

From the very beginning, the M/S Viking Grace – delivered in January 2013 – was an environmental milestone.   The vessel attracted global attention as an environmental

Marine Power

MN100: R.W. Fernstrum & Company

The Company: R.W. Fernstrum & Company set the standard in marine heat exchangers over 65 years ago, building a reputation focused on innovation. Today, its commitment is to continual improvement,

US Navy Ships Conduct Astern Replenishment-at-sea

“While replenishments-at-sea are routine, astern refueling is unique and requires precise navigation and coordination,” said Lt. Cmdr. Jason Ileto, fleet replenishment scheduler for Commander,

Better Turbocharger Performance, Proven Tech

Engineer wisdom: Nothing is worse as the right idea at the wrong time. But with the new ECOCHARGE Two-Stage Turbocharging System MAN D&T has reached both goals.

Casualties

Vitol's Malaysia Terminal Suspends Ops after Spill

VTTI, the storage unit of world's largest oil trader Vitol, has suspended operations at its terminal in southern Malaysia following an oil spill, two industry sources said on Friday.

El Faro Captain Ordered Crew to Abandon Ship before Sinking

The captain of the doomed El Faro cargo ship sounded an alarm for his crew to abandon the vessel shortly before it sank last fall in a hurricane near the Bahamas, killing all 33 onboard, the U.

26 Hours of Information Recovered from El Faro's VDR

A group led by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has gathered information from the recovered voyage data recorder (VDR) of sunken cargo ship

News

MV WERFTEN, Foreship Sign Design Agreements

MV WERFTEN signed a letter of intent with the engineering company Foreship in Stralsund today. The agreement includes parts of the basic design as well as design,

NParks, Keppel in S$2.08 mln Partnership for Restoring Singapore Forest Wetlands

The National Parks Board (NParks) and Keppel Corporation today unveiled plans for a partnership to restore the freshwater forest wetland ecosystem historically

Zumaia Offshore Acqires MPP Workboat Aitana B

In April 2016 Zumaia Offshore, S.L., leading workboat owner and operator based in the Basque Country, took delivery of the Cummins-powered MPP workboat “Aitana

Coast Guard

El Faro Captain Ordered Crew to Abandon Ship before Sinking

The captain of the doomed El Faro cargo ship sounded an alarm for his crew to abandon the vessel shortly before it sank last fall in a hurricane near the Bahamas, killing all 33 onboard, the U.

Navy Discovers Malaysian Tanker

Indonesia's navy has found a tanker carrying almost US$400,000 worth of diesel that was taken by its own crew last week due to a commercial dispute, says a report in AFP.

Philippines: Sea Dispute Won't Shift Ties with China, U.S.

The Philippines' territorial dispute with China over the South China Sea has not caused Manila to rebalance diplomatic ties with either its ally, the United States,

Maritime Safety

Danish Maritime Authority Supports Maritime Cultural Days

The Danish Maritime Authority's buoy tender ’POUL LØWENØRN’ will be alongside in Korsør in connection with the Maritime Cultural Days. The vessel will be open to visitors throughout Saturday,

ABS Makes it Safer to ‘Walk to Work’

ABS announced the publication of The ABS Guide for Certification of Offshore Access Gangways. The new Guide addresses certification for safety systems used for “walk to work” (W2W) crew transfers.

Scorpene Submarine Data Leak: Setback to Indian Navy

India has began multiple investigations to determine the extent of damage caused by the reported massive leak of secret data detailing the combat and stealth capabilities

Government Update

White House: Iranian Ships' Actions in Gulf Increase Risk of Miscalculation

Actions by Iranian vessels in several encounters with U.S. warships in the Gulf this week are cause for concern and increase risks of miscalculation, the White House said on Friday.

Cochin Port Gets a Little 'Breathing Space'

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs of India, chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has given its approval for waiver of penal interest on Government

Iran Vessels Make 'High Speed Intercept' of US Ship

Four of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) vessels "harassed" a U.S. warship on Tuesday near the Strait of Hormuz, a U.S. defense official said, amid

 
 
Maritime Careers / Shipboard Positions Maritime Standards Naval Architecture Pipelines Salvage Ship Electronics Ship Repair Shipbuilding / Vessel Construction Sonar 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: 0.1616 sec (6 req/sec)