A corrupt corporate culture

PSM's ClearView display PSM's ClearView display

Some operators are deliberately flouting bilge water discharge rules, writes Wendy Laursen.

Kenyen Brown, US Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama, had this to say when convicting an Italian shipowner this year for using a magic pipe to illegally discharge oily water: “The US is fully committed to prosecuting those cases where vessels cover-up improper oily waste discharges at sea through the use of falsified logs. Our aim is twofold, to preserve our natural resources for future generations, and second, to clean up a corrupt corporate culture that would place greed above all else.”

Whether the root cause of oily waste discharge problems can be called greed or not is debatable but consultancy Clean Ship Scandinavia reports the number of Paris MOU MARPOL Annex I vessel detentions for the first half of this year is 63, nearly 20% of all detentions. Half of these related to oil filtering equipment. Toyko MOU statistics are similar with 65 out of 104 MARPOL Annex I detentions related to oil filtering equipment.

Operational pollution remains a major concern partly because of a lack of understanding of the causes of contamination and how they can affect oily water separator (OWS) operation, says Geoff Taylor, managing director of PSM. “The situation is complicated by a lack of investment in port facilities in less developed countries which may mean that tanker captains are unable to dispose of oily ballast water properly. As well as magic pipes, other dubious methods of disposal have included switching, using the fire main and tricking oil content meters. Allied to deliberate avoidance practices, lack of crew familiarity with onboard systems and undetected systems failures have also led to punitive fines and criminal prosecution for negligence.”

Danish operator Clipper Marine Services recently retrofitted some of its oldest vessels to ensure compliance with international codes of practice and US legal requirements. This involved new, higher capacity OWS and a new remote monitoring system from PSM. ClearView includes onboard and shoreside hardware and software including an overboard discharge monitoring module which allows shoreside personnel to monitor the operation of the OWS. While earlier products were only able to monitor and log signals from main equipment such as the OWS and OCM, integrated systems such ClearView also provide monitoring of other areas such as bilge wells, holding and sludge tanks and incinerators. This allows potential issues to be flagged as system alerts where, for example, bilge levels are falling but neither the OWS nor incinerator is running.

Clipper also instigated a comprehensive crew training programme in the use of the new technology and introduced additional security measures in the form of a tagging system for overboard discharge. Today’s systems offer significant advantages for retrofit solution including improved durability of instrumentation and the ability to monitor equipment via satellite, says Mr Taylor. ClearView is scalable and able to be integrated with existing system elements as required.

Wärtsilä offers Bilge Water Guard to help ensure that responsible crew can provide evidence of innocence. The system is a black box installed between the bilge system and the overboard discharge pipe that constantly monitors the oil content in the water being pumped out. Additionally, it records all discharges complete with OWS status, time of discharge, volume of water and oil content. If connected to a GPS it also records vessel position. “For both crew members and ship management, the Wärtsilä BWG provides a safety net and a possibility to control and make evident to governing bodies that existing regulations have not been violated,” says the company.


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