VLGC rates cross $110/tonne mark

Rates to haul LPG on very large gas carriers (VLGCs) have exceeded USD110/tonne as charterers have been fixing ships in both the east and west of Suez.
As of 15 June, the Baltic Exchange assessed the benchmark Gulf-Asia Pacific rate at USD116/tonne, up from USD108.063/tonne on 8 June.
At current

Should the Polar Code Regulate Grey Water?

By Wendy Laursen 2015-06-15 22:41:08

The potential for regulating the discharge of grey water was discussed at IMO when formulating the Polar Code, but, like other times grey water has been discussed, the idea was fairly quickly discarded.

Annex IV of the MARPOL Convention, adopted 40 years ago, sets ambitious standards for ship black water discharges, but grey water is not regulated at all. Therefore, there was little incentive to spend time on it during the Polar Code’s tight timetable for development.

Dr Wei Chen, Future Program Development Manager at Wärtsilä Water Systems, admits that he has not seen any specific risk assessments regarding the discharge of grey water in polar waters. But, he says, the pollution impact of grey water is well known. Grey water from households, communities, and various industries, big or small, has been strictly regulated to the same extent as black water for many decades. If we follow the spirit of MARPOL Annex IV, then grey water should surely be regulated because it has far greater potential for environmental impact than sewage.

Chen cites some of the pollution parameters defined for black water in Annex IV. The levels of fecal coliform, an indication of bacteria; BOD5 and COD, indicators of organic pollutants, and suspended solids (TSS) found in grey water far exceed those found in black water.

“On that basis, grey water should be regulated across the entirety of IMO waters, let alone the polar regions, where we have got high environmental sensitivity,” he says.

As a general guide, galley grey water is similar in pollution content to black water, says Chen. Overall, cruise ship grey water contains far more pollutants than black water. For merchant ships the difference is not as great, but still significant. However, the cruise ship sector has made a significant commitment to grey water treatment. Some advanced technologies produce treated wastewater of far better quality than that discharged from the equivalent facilities on land.

Alaska took the problem into its own hands in 2000 with the introduction of grey water regulations and the monitoring of discharges from passenger ships. Since then, other regional regulations have evolved including regulations covering grey water discharge in the 2013 Vessel General Permit in the U.S.

For Chen, to include grey water in the Polar Code would of course be a benefit for the sensitive polar environments, but nonetheless it is not the ideal approach to the problem. With regional regulations already in place, another separate set of regulations only makes it more difficult for shipowners to comply. Better, he says, to do the full job in MARPOL, including the development of guidelines on how discharge standards should be met.

All the major classification societies have already introduced green notations for ships that treat grey water, and many shipowners are willing. This hasn’t solved the problem, says Chen, as most of the requirements of these notations are vague. “Almost all sewage treatment plant vendors claim they can do black and grey water. That has been going on for many years. However, putting grey water through the final stage of a multi-stage black water treatment system, as is often done, is not really treating grey water. Instead, it is compromising the performance of the type-approved sewage treatment system.”

The final disinfection stage of a black water treatment system does not remove BOD5 or TSS, says Chen. “Therefore, if a system was in compliance treating just black water effluent, it becomes non-compliant once grey water is added.

“If we did regulate grey water in the Polar Code, the new rules would look good on paper but that’s all,” says Chen. “It is better to encompass the big picture even if it is harder to push it through IMO that way. At least then we will have a chance to do it properly and include clear guidelines for implementing systems on ships.” – MarEx


No Change in Ferry Death Rates

By Wendy Laursen 2015-06-15 22:28:33

Over the past two decades ferry incidents in the E.U. have continued to occur at roughly the same rate, but the number of ferry fatalities has markedly declined.

Speaking at the 2015 World Maritime Rescue Congress, Kiersten Reid-Sander, a research assistant with the International Maritime Rescue Federation, attributes this largely to improved search and rescue response.

“Such a trend cannot be seen in developing nations,” says Reid-Sander. “In many cases response, or lack of, is the same today as it was 15 years ago. Already in March 2015, Myanmar experienced their worst recorded ferry disaster in the past 15 years with more than 63 people killed. Volunteers led rescue efforts and there was no mention of an official, organised SAR response. In total six fatal ferry accidents have been reported in early 2015, with more than 295 people killed,” she says.

Ferries in developing nations are often the only available mode of transportation, leaving people no choice but to board overloaded, unsafe ferries for their daily commute. Ferry capacity is increasing, and when a mass rescue is necessary resources are not necessarily available. The number of victims often overwhelms rescuers.

“Search and rescue authorities in developing nations are under resourced and overwhelmed with vast rivers, lakes and coastlines to monitor,” says Reid-Sanders.

For 70 of the accidents reported by the Worldwide Ferry Safety Association (WFSA), other vessels or fishermen were first on the scene to rescue victims. Official rescuers, who may have had some search and rescue training, are mentioned for only 40 out of the 159 accidents identified by WFSA e.g. local police, fire service, navy, coast guard etc. In 23 cases, no rescuers were available to help, with survivors being those who were able to swim ashore.

“Lack of communications in many countries means authorities do not become aware of an accident before it is too late,” she says. Ferry accidents in developing nations often happen in remote areas where difficult terrain and vast distances can debilitate the rescue response to an emergency.

However, according to Reid-Sanders, some new initiatives are underway to help these nations achieve better survival rates. In response to the necessity of ferry travel combined with a vast river network and limited official search and rescue resources, a promising initiative has been introduced in Vietnam, she says. The “Safety First” ferry stations manned by volunteers with first aid training and river rescue skills has been welcomed by the local communities with passengers no longer fearing for their safety when crossing the river on their way home.

A similar initiative has reportedly been in place for many years in Nigeria where families are in charge of rivers and leading search and rescue operations.

Another promising initiative has emerged in the Democratic Republic of Congo. A U.N. unmanned aerial vehicle was able to spot a ferry sinking and then remain at the scene searching for survivors and providing situational awareness. This aided the subsequent lifesaving operation that was launched by providing real-time imagery to support reaction to incidents.