Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Emission Control Areas Have Mixed Reception from Freight and RoRo Ferry Shipping Operators

One Company Points Out the Importance of Preparation
Shipping News Feature

WORLDWIDE – With the authorities in Hong Kong stating this week that they intend to force vessel operators to use low sulphur fuel from July 2015 after failing to cajole enough to make the switch voluntarily, it is interesting to note the differing reactions of freight, RoRo ferry and container shipping lines around the world to the imposition of Emission Control Areas (ECAs) in the waters of the US, Caribbean, Northern Europe and Canada from January this year.

We wrote last year of the companies claiming that the reduction in emissions, and the consequent cost of higher grade fuels and/or scrubbers to clean up emissions, would result in increased costs, bankruptcies etc. This of course despite the six years advance notice given of the amendments to the MARPOL regulations which ordained the changes.

Now one company, Carisbrooke Shipping, which operates a fleet of some sixty vessels from bases in the UK, Germany and the Netherlands, has put forward a more positive spin on the situation, and gone to some lengths to explain how it feels it has managed the first three months of running under the new rules. With most ships on the coastal and short-sea trades in the North Sea and Baltic areas, Fleet Technical Director Martin Henry explains that forethought has been the key to ensuring a trouble free switch, saying:

"Knowing what kind of serious failures and problems can occur during the extremely critical period of fuel change-over, if not managed well, we decided that careful preparation was a priority, not least because the regulations were to enter force at the very worst time of year when weather conditions are often at their most severe.

"Bearing in mind that many of our vessels are constantly in and out of ECA-regulated waters, we assessed each group of ships in our fleet to see what modifications would be required in terms of fuel tank allocation and piping arrangements. On some ships, there was a considerable amount of work needed.

"We seconded two serving Senior Chief Engineers to Head Office and between them, they visited all of our vessel series, carrying out actual change-overs to and from marine gasoil in order to draw up suitable detailed procedures. If the process is not carried out carefully, there is a serious risk of damage to components. The procedures vary, because on board some of our older vessels, there is limited tank capacity for distillate fuel, and more time is required for the change-over process. On others, we had to reorganise fuel supply pipework where this was economically viable."

Carisbrooke is a company which sells its ‘Green Fleet’ concept very hard and CEO Robert Wester is blunt in his assessment as to the reason for success, and keen to show how this has been achieved saying:

"Our first three months of Emission Control Area operation have run without a hitch, we put this down to careful preparation supported by the skill and diligence of our sea staff. As a company, we are updating our public profile because we believe we have a strong story to tell. A key element in this strategy is our new website where we describe in more detail the challenges we have addressed in preparing for the ECA regulations.

“We operate one of the most up-to-date fleets in the short-sea sector, nevertheless, the compliance process has been expensive although we are confident that the investment has led to safer, greener and more efficiently-run vessels overall. In the short-sea trades, the economics of scrubber installations to clean exhaust gas, or engine retrofits to burn alternative fuels such as liquid natural gas, simply don't stack up.

“In relatively small ships, there are invariably space and stability constraints relating to scrubber installations. Despite the new challenges, however, we have continued to offer our usual high standards of service to charterers and end users."

Photo: Failure to convert equipment from marine gas oil to the new lighter fuel correctly can result in downtime and serious damage.