Shipboard oily water
separators are internationally mandated as engine room equipment
and are intended to allow engine room crews to clean engine room bilge water prior to discharge into the world’s oceans. This equipment was mandated based on the assumption that uncleaned discharge of engine room bilge water would result in discharge of oil into the environment. Oily water separator equipment has now been installed aboard commercial vessels for over 30 years, but there is reason to question the actual effectiveness of this equipment. It has never been clearly established if oily water separators actually work to a level that enables crews to operate them in a reliable fashion. Recently port state and flag authorities have started to more closely scrutinize the use of this equipment by vessel crews and this has resulted in numerous prosecutions of vessel crews and shipowners.
In January 2005 the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers
(SNAME) formed a Technology and Research Ad Hoc Panel that was tasked to evaluate oily water separators and systems. This panel operates under SNAME’s Technology and Research Program, which is recognized internationally for its excellent and unbiased guidance on marine technical issues. Initial evaluation of the scientific and engineering issues surrounding oily water separator systems by the Ad Hoc Panel has shown that there are numerous unsettled operational, human factors, scientific, and engineering issues that can interfere with the design and construction of reliable and verifiable systems aboard ships at this time. (See http://www.sname.org/committees/tech_ops/oilywater/meets06.pdf) As a result of these findings, SNAME has now taken the initiative to provide the Ad Hoc Panel with $10,000 in seed funding, and thereby hopes to encourage the Maritime Industry to match these funds to allow further study of the problems associated with oily water separator design and operation.
At this stage it is the intent of SNAME and the Ad Hoc Panel to secure sufficient funding to open an oily water separator system information clearinghouse that will support research and development, and will provide the results of this work to the marine industry at large.
For further information on SNAME go to www.sname.org
For further information on SNAME Ad Hoc Panel 14 go to http://www.sname.org/committees/tech_ops/oilywater/INDEX.html