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

Environmental

Update on Seagull Mobile apps for Crew

The Seagull mobile app for crew training status is set to revolutionise the way seafarers track their training records and receive critical safety alerts, by making

Proposed Changes to Long Island Sound Dredged Material Sites

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to amend its 2005 rule that designated the Central and Western Long Island Sound Dredged Material Disposal Sites.

Next Generation Marine Power & Propulsion Conference

The Next Generation Marine Power & Propulsion Conference will be held at the Grand Harbour Hotel, Southampton, U.K. from April 26 to 28, 2016.    This unique

Marine Power

Cummins Expands Marine Tier 3 Product Line

Cummins Inc., a manufacturer of diesel engines and generator sets for the marine industry, has launched a new Onan marine U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Tier 3-certified generator,

James Troop Supplies Engines for 3 Naval Vessels

Liverpool City Region (UK) based ship engine specialist James Troop & Co has won an order to supply Volvo Penta diesel engines for three European naval vessels being built on Merseyside.

Honda Marine on Display at Miami Boat Show

Honda Marine is set to market its complete range of outboard marine four-stroke engines at the 2016 Miami International Boat Show, February 11-15, 2016.   At this year’s show,

News

Port of LA’s January Volumes Up 33%

704,398 TEUs leads Los Angeles to busiest January in port history    The Port of Los Angeles handled 704,398 Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) in January 2016,

42 People Rescued after Abandoning Ship off Hawaii

Forty-two people are safe after abandoning ship approximately 1,800 miles south of the Hawaiian Islands, Thursday, the U.S. Coast Guard reported.   Crewmembers

Yacht Club Takes Delivery of New Dredger

Rose City Yacht Club, a long-standing private marina and social club along the Columbia River in Portland, Ore., recently took delivery and startup of a new 8-inch Badger Class dredge from Reserve,

Coast Guard

42 People Rescued after Abandoning Ship off Hawaii

Forty-two people are safe after abandoning ship approximately 1,800 miles south of the Hawaiian Islands, Thursday, the U.S. Coast Guard reported.   Crewmembers

NTSB to Search for El Faro’s Voyage Data Recorder

Second search mission to sunken El Faro seeks to locate missing voyage data recorder   The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said it will initiate a

NATO Launches Sea Mission Against People-Smugglers

NATO, EU mission to help target traffickers in Aegean Sea. NATO ships are on their way to the Aegean Sea to help Turkey and Greece crack down on criminal networks smuggling refugees into Europe,

Maritime Safety

42 People Rescued after Abandoning Ship off Hawaii

Forty-two people are safe after abandoning ship approximately 1,800 miles south of the Hawaiian Islands, Thursday, the U.S. Coast Guard reported.   Crewmembers

NATO Sea Mission Launched against Migrant Traffickers

NATO ships are on their way to the Aegean Sea to help Turkey and Greece crack down on criminal networks smuggling refugees into Europe, the alliance's top commander said on Thursday.

NATO Launches Sea Mission Against People-Smugglers

NATO, EU mission to help target traffickers in Aegean Sea. NATO ships are on their way to the Aegean Sea to help Turkey and Greece crack down on criminal networks smuggling refugees into Europe,

Government Update

NATO Sea Mission Launched against Migrant Traffickers

NATO ships are on their way to the Aegean Sea to help Turkey and Greece crack down on criminal networks smuggling refugees into Europe, the alliance's top commander said on Thursday.

Vessel Discharge Amendment Push Continues

AWO voices strong opposition to McCain anti-Jones Act amendment   The American Waterways Operators (AWO) is continuing an intensive lobbying campaign to bring

NATO Launches Sea Mission Against People-Smugglers

NATO, EU mission to help target traffickers in Aegean Sea. NATO ships are on their way to the Aegean Sea to help Turkey and Greece crack down on criminal networks smuggling refugees into Europe,

 
 
Maritime Careers / Shipboard Positions Maritime Security Maritime Standards Naval Architecture Navigation Offshore Oil Pod Propulsion Ship Repair 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: 0.1453 sec (7 req/sec)