Lately we’ve been seeing quite a few reports of incidents caused by improper switching of fuel when entering Emission Control Areas (ECA), which a new one seems to be popping up just about every week now. Mechanical issues are obviously a problem that will come up more frequently, when you are making these types of far reaching decisions. There is bound to be some equipment and people that are not all on the same page.
I read of the various scrubbers and technologies being developed to fit into the various types of ship. Introducing a wide swath of new technology, procedures, chemicals etc, will undoubdetly create even more interesting situations aboard ships, hopefully not too many at inopportune times. Its great to see inovation and progress, but it strikes me as being an awfully silly exercise.
I’ve thinking about this whole low sulphur fuel push, which I believe is a good step for our collective global health, but I think the whole issue might be a bit misguided, well at least the implementation of change.
As Chief Engineer, I now have to fill several more legal documents such as records of Low Sulphur Fuel received, Switching Over Record, Fuel Sample Tracking and on and on. If the Oil Record Book, and the criminalization of seafarers that followed the ongoing scrutiny authorities have paying to this record is any indication, we can expect one hell of a legal bonanza against seafarers. The sudden multiplication of these types of records, and as a consequence, the potential mistakes made in maintaining these records, and the drastic sanctions they expose us on board are a cause for concern in my mind.
All this points to a silly way to deal with a problem, akin to going after drug user, and not doing anything about the drug dealer. I don’t understand why the shipping industry has to bear the brunt of this responsibility to clean up emission. It would seem to me to be more logical to modify the fuel before it makes it onboard. Why do we have to force the marine industry, and about 50,000 ships worldwide, to make major capital investment, creating vast new regulatory bureaucracy, and more opportunity for failure at the shipboard level? It’s great that equipment suppliers, the office and enforcement types are getting a great deal out of this, but lets face it, its just so inefficient.
Why not instead treat the fuel at the refinery level; take out the sulphur (etc.) at this level. Seems to me that the research and technology dollar would go the furthest at this level, with a broader impact on the overall environmental goals. There is less than one thousand refineries, probably far less that produce fuel specific for shipping, it would therefore be much simpler step to implement and produce a more predictable result, and a smaller bureaucracy and enforcement overall. We see this philosophy happening with Ultra Low Sulphur Diesel (ULSD) for vehicle use, and how this is being implemented across the globe now; why not adopt this format for heavier fuel.
Pics from internet sources.