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Green Ships & Compliance

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Environmental regulations for ships are getting more stringent, but automated sensor technology could help ship operators remain in compliance. 

The recent agreement signed in Paris, at the UN Climate Change Conference, will require all industries to keep reducing their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Although there was no specific mention of shipping, the aim of keeping global temperature rises below 2ºC this century will require the industry to play its part – as it is responsible for about 2% of global CO2 emissions.
Environmental rules for the industry are enshrined in the MARPOL (standing for ‘Marine Pollution’) regulations as well as several local regulations, such as VGP (Vessel general permit) 2013, which set strict emission limits. Emission targets in open water are less stringent, allowing high-sulphur fuel to be used there, for example. However, closer to shore – or in special areas such as the Baltic Sea – these targets are far stricter, so ships must switch over to a ‘cleaner’ fuel. These rules are only going to get tougher: as a special area under Annexe IV of MARPOL, the Baltic Sea will fall under tough new regulations for waste water discharge, for example. The rules will be introduced in 2016 for new passenger vessels and 2018 for existing vessels.
The punishment for breaking MARPOL rules can be severe, particularly in the U.S. For example, recent cases include a German management company fined $800,000 for breaking the Clean Water Act, and an Italian ship owner fined $2.75 million for infringing the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships.  In each case, both the operating company and individual members of the crew were held to be at fault and received fines or community service orders.
At the same time, the U.S. Coast Guard recently issued a Safety Alert, regarding the use of ultra-low sulphur (ULS) fuel. It recommends that switching to ULS fuel – which can result in loss of propulsion – is accomplished “outside of busy traffic lanes” (generally 200 nautical miles off the main U.S. coast). As part of the guidance, it says: “Ensure all sensors, controls and alarms are operational and function as designed.” [...]


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