Automated Systems Simplify Regulatory Compliance
Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Shipping industry turns to automated systems that minimize the time, money and people required to keep in compliance with myriad of environmental regulations

Tough new air pollution regulations for the maritime industry are making it difficult for the shipping industry to comply. The International Maritime Organization (IMO), the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Air Resources Board (CARB), to name a fe.w, have introduced new regulations to regulate air pollution. Steep fines and delays face maritime operators that do not comply with engine emissions monitoring and reporting.

This is a challenge for shipping companies on several levels. First, despite being similar in some respects, the regulations often have different requirements, operating parameters and deadlines. Second, until recently the continuous, onboard emissions testing equipment and services required to monitor emissions have not existed. Third, meeting the needs of all these environmental organizations and submitting the necessary documentation is an administrative nightmare.

In an attempt to keep up, many shipping companies post a dedicated environmental specialist to oversee the labyrinth of regulations, changes and updates regularly announced. These experts then make recommendations on retrofits, upgrades and pollution control products that will keep their vessels in compliance. The goal ultimately is to meet the requirements by making the best purchasing decisions while minimizing the amount of personnel required.

“Shipowners have so many other issues to worry about that when it comes to environmental regulations what they want is a solution that will keep them in compliance with minimal difficulty, manpower and headaches,” said Mark Adair, Technical Director at GreenLink Systems, a company that produces high-tech emission monitoring and control products for heavy duty diesel engines.

Although this would seem rather straightforward, until recently the onboard, continuous monitoring devices and other testing equipment required to monitor NOx emissions accurately and with repeatability have not been commercially available.

Furthermore, the continuous information generated by monitoring units must be stored in local servers accessible at any time on board or from shore, with all of it organized to ensure that the proper documentation for each regulatory agency is immediately available upon request.

“There is quite a bit of bookkeeping involved to meet the requirements of all these regulations,” said Adair. “It involves monitoring data that has to be collected, stored and presented. And if a shipping company gets in to the extreme case of litigation or fines, they would have the proper documentation and have a better chance of ultimately being found to have been in compliance.”

Fortunately, as with previous emissions reductions efforts in industries such as automotive, trucking and waste handling, such regulations drive the market to respond with the necessary products and services to meet the challenge.

GreenLink Systems, for example, is currently offering onboard NOx Emission Monitoring Units (NEMUs) designed to meet all the requirements of the IMO NOx Technical Code for all on board maritime engines, including auxiliary engines.

The compact NEMU is installed directly on the engine and exhaust system utilizing sophisticated sensors that measure to within .5 parts per million of NOx. It remains on the engine to measure, record and transmit data 24/7, with new updates uploaded every few seconds.

Information from these units is relayed wirelessly via built-in 4G wireless modems to a secure, online database accessible over the Internet from any location. Automatic alerts by SMS text message and/or e-mail immediately inform designated personnel of out of compliance issues.

GreenLink Systems has set up its web interface to indicate each regulation along with a visual representation of a gauge panel. For ease, a green light signifies “in compliance” and a red indicates “out of compliance.” Listing each regulation is required because many have unique emissions parameters and a red light could leave personnel to figure out which is out of compliance.

“With an automatic alert system you don’t need a person to monitor a computer or gauges throughout the day,” said Adair. “They would get a text message or e-mail and then log in to the web site to find out what is out of compliance. By clicking on the item, they can dial in to the test data folder and find out the date, time and section of the event and what channel – temperature, pressure, emissions level – is not compliant so they can quickly address it.”

According to Adair, such equipment will also play a key role in identifying emerging emission control technologies that can be retrofitted on ships. The NEMU is the only product on the market that includes NOx sensors both upstream and downstream from a catalyst. This provides for more accurate reporting when an emissions control device is employed and allows ship owners to separate emission control products that work as advertised from those that don’t.

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