Ocean Guardian is making quite the splash in the maritime industry. Client interest has been extremely strong, but we’re also proud of the media attention we’ve received. That helps us to know that we’re making waves and not only providing a solution to a compliance challenge, but also helping to change the way the industry thinks about compliance. Check out Ocean Guardian in Marine Link.
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On December 1, 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that Princess Cruise Lines Ltd. pleaded guilty to felony charges stemming from pollution of the ocean. The $40 million penalty is the largest-ever criminal penalty for marine pollution, setting a precedent for future cases related to contamination of marine environments.
This decision is a landmark act by both the U.S. Department of Justice and Princess Cruise Lines. It underscores two important realities in today’s maritime industry: first, a concerted effort and significant action to identify, address and hold perpetrators accountable for marine pollution at the highest levels of the U.S. government; and second, a critical and ongoing shift within the maritime industry toward greater corporate social responsibility.
Let’s address both points.
Maritime environmental pollution is not new. With ongoing research and a deeper understanding of ocean environments, we are constantly aware of the impact our actions have on fragile marine ecosystems and the planet. For centuries, maritime pollution occurred without an understanding of what happens to our trash or debris. Today, we know better and operate with several levels of maritime environmental compliance regulations from International Maritime Organization, federal, state and even local players. It is a complicated and sometimes confusing set of regulations. For many years, a culture of cover up and slaps on the wrist sent the message to large marine players that environmental compliance was not a high priority for governments or enforcement bodies. The December 1 decision turns that culture on its head, underscoring once and for all the significant harm of environmental pollution and the significant action the U.S. government is willing to take to address, prevent and hold accountable its perpetrators.
Maritime environmental pollution can easily take place knowingly or unknowingly. All too easily compliance errors can happen, and out of fear these errors may be covered up. When an error is not caught, it is easy for employees to become complacent and continue to perpetrate the error. This degrades a company’s culture of compliance. We commend Princess Cruise Lines for investigating the non-compliance errors and strengthening their corporate compliance and oversight process regarding environmental compliance and protection. This case is a painful reminder of the importance of constant training and oversight, but also an example of how a company can do the right thing and hold itself accountable. By doing so, Princess Cruise Lines not only took responsibility for its actions, but sent a message to passengers, crew and regulators that it takes environmental compliance seriously and will take the necessary measures to strengthen its culture of compliance.
Regular corporate environmental compliance training is essential for not only educating staff and crew, but also for sending the message that environmental compliance is important. Oversight and supervision also play a critical role in creating a culture of compliance. While mistakes can happen even when staff is well educated, corporate oversight and supervision can prevent these mistakes from happening continually and address short cuts. At TMS, we encourage the entire maritime industry to take lessons from the case – to strengthen their culture of compliance on board and on shore, and to address compliance shortfalls swiftly and directly with immediate action.
In the latest in environmental maritime regulation news, the Marine Environment Protection Committee by the IMO has lowered the global sulfur emissions limit to 0.5% from the current limit of 3.5%. The new limit was considered for 2025 but was finalized to go into effect in 2020 as of yesterday.
Such a significant decrease in emissions will require the shipping industry to commit to serious change in order to remain compliant. It may cost the industry as much as $35-$40 billion which comes at a time when specific sectors in maritime are undergoing a particularly difficult time, financially. However, the new limit is a great step for the environment and more specifically, human health. Sulfur contributes to air pollution and it sulfur oxides can harm individuals by leading to such conditions as lung diseases and cancers.
Compliance Option: Cleaner Fuel
Many are setting their sights on the prospect of lower sulfur fuel. It could be a cost-efficient option for many although it could definitely serve to weed out refineries that are unprepared to produce higher quality products and fuel that has been treated to contain less of the substance. While some professionals are questioning the potential availability of lower sulfur fuel in light of the dramatic demand that was created in the industry overnight, other professionals insist there will be enough resources for all. The International Chamber of Shipping Association’s Director of Policy and External Relations, Simon Bennett, had this to say… “There will be much to do between now and 2020 to ensure that sufficient quantities of compliant marine fuel of the right quality will indeed be available, and that this radical switch over to cleaner fuels will be implemented smoothly …without distorting shipping markets or having negative impacts on the movement of world trade.”
Compliance Option: Scrubbers
Another option is to custom outfit vessels with scrubbers, devices that are able to regulate the amount of air pollution produces by ships. They pose an economically viable option for any vessel that would be used for at least another five years. However, there are specific regulations and conditions that must be heeded in order for firms to remain compliant using scrubbers.
While the crossover to meet new regulation will take some time, effort and financial investment. The impact on human health and the environment will be historic. Transport & Environment’s Bill Hemmings says the limit change will mean shipping will contribute 1.5% of the planet’s air pollution, a steep decline from the current status of 5%.
If you have questions about compliance with these or other environmental regulations, please call us at (954) 327-2032.
Have you delved into the world of solar energy for your environmentally-friendly yacht or ship? The use of solar power technology is quickly becoming widespread in a number of industries and the maritime industry isn’t getting left behind! Do some research to see how you and your vessel can benefit from bringing on different types of solar powered technologies. The solar powered AIS Class B Small and VMS Identifier is a wonderful example of the potential benefits to be enjoyed!
The Solar Powered AIS Class B Small and VMS Identifier
The solar powered AIS Class B Small and VMS identification transceiver is one of the most impressive new solar powered technologies available for maritime vessels. It’s the very first fully certified model available on the planet and it’s produced by SRT Marine Systems, plc. The Identifier is complete with high-tech security features and options, an excellent GPS system, VHF antennas and terrestrial/satellite tracking modes that may be used interchangeably. It needed to be used via direct connection to the ship’s power supply or via a rechargeable battery which seems standard enough. The twist is that it’s now available with the Solar Power Kit that allows it to be used without ever using a vessel’s power! It can now run on battery power alone for over five days without the need for being charged.
Of course, maritime environments present plenty of physical challenges and special circumstances and these conditions have been taken into consideration. Solar power is terrific and systems can be designed to withstand rough weather, long term uses and the often rough onboard environments associated with commercial shipping. On top of these features, solar power can be easy to use, effective and cost efficient.
We love that they have taken the initiative to develop such a useful and environmentally-sound product and we look forward to seeing more solar powered marine technologies appear on the market!
Did you know? There is a new protected marine environment off the coast of Hawaii. President Barack Obama has expanded the 140,000 sq. mile Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument to over 580,000 sq. miles! The marine sanctuary lies northwest of the main islands of Hawaii and it is now the largest protected marine area on the planet.
The Riches of Papahanaumokuakea
Papahanaumokuakea is a very eco-rich environment of over 7,000 species as well as 10 islands and atolls. It is home to tropical sea birds, black coral (the longest-living marine species) and several endangered species. Interestingly, the marine reserve will protect a number of species that have yet to be identified such as a recent finding – a species of small white octopuses. John Reichert of the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Global Ocean Legacy calls it “one of the most biologically and culturally significant places on the planet”. The marine reserve which has now been expanded to more than four times its original size, is also rich in history as the site of World War II’s Battle of Midway and as home to an area that is sacred to natives of Hawaii.
The Significance of Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument
The expansion of Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument is not only significant to the U.S., but to the world. It’s a bold and powerful step to work against climate change, promote biodiversity and to set an example to promote the protection of marine environments and the environment at large! To add, the expansion of the Papahanaumokuakea Reserve to an area twice the size of Texas is an important step for conservation, research and education. With the newly expanded protections, this marine reserve will have the opportunity for tuna to flourish once again while offering a chance to see an increase in the populations of the endangered species that call the area home – green sea turtles, short-tailed albatrosses, blue whales and Hawaiian monk seals.
The new legislation permits scientific research as well as recreational fishing and fishing for sustenance by the area’s native Hawaiians. Commercial fishing and mineral extraction, however, are strictly forbidden.
The original 140,000 sq. mile Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument was originally established one decade ago by President George W. Bush. President Obama’s expansion of the reserve is a part of his major legacy in environmental protection. He has currently protected over twice the number of acres of environment as any other president in history.
We don’t care how it is done, but we LOVE seeing new marine environments protected – raising awareness of our environmental impact on the oceans and the need to protect them!
It’s incredibly important that we harmonize international regulations and testing procedures. When one system of regulation or scale is different from another, work and progress in the maritime industry is hindered. Uniformity allows for the development of products and systems that may be sold and utilized anywhere around the world – a crucial factor for this globally-focused industry. One such testing method that hasn’t reached universal harmonization is the most probable number (MPN) method for ballast water treatment systems. The MPN method is currently accepted worldwide but has not yet been approved as an appropriate alternative in the U.S.
MPN Method Appeals
The MPN method is used to find out how likely organisms are to reproduce but the USCG have said they don’t meet their requirements for an adequate alternative. Specifically, it estimates the number of cells of a species and the conditions or requirements necessary for it to reproduce. The United States Coast Guard has denied appeals from manufacturers of ballast water treatment systems seeking to use the method to determine the effectiveness of ballast water treatment systems. These four manufacturers seek to use the testing method as an alternative to the current testing methods already put into place by the USCG. All of their appeals were denied.
What Comes Next?
The USCG reviewed the legal and technical aspects of the appeals in addition to examining over 20,000 pages of legal documents! This was in conjunction with reviewing research analysis conducted independently by the Naval Research Laboratory. The research resulted in finding the MPN method to be an insufficient alternative to current ballast water treatment system requirements.
Ultimately, the MPN method was rejected because the USCG found that none of the four manufacturers could actually prove their systems met current regulatory requirements. It was also found that the Marine Safety Center was not the appropriate organization for the approval of an alternative testing method. Although the alternative testing method was rejected, the USCG is testing other UV-based treatment systems. To add, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is also considering the efficacy of the MPN method in waters featuring mixed-organisms. The USCG is not denying the MPN method, however, it denies the method as a proposed alternative testing method as presented by these manufacturers.
Harmonization and standardization across industries is incredibly important so we don’t think this is the end of the story. We will likely see more manufacturers present the alternative in different ways until we are able to find harmony with the testing methods of the U.S. and those of nations abroad.
Have you ever heard of the possibility of burying our greenhouse gases at sea? Europe is very close to implementing carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology in Rotterdam. This means that millions of tons of greenhouse gases would be collected and then stored in facilities beneath the North Sea off of the coast of Rotterdam.
Carbon Capture and Storage Plants
This is a solution for mining and fossil fuel companies to meet regulation requirements very quickly. Specifically, fossil fuel use cannot be eradicated on time so burying greenhouse gases is viewed as an attractive alternative to help do our part to limit global warming. Canada is already finding success with CCS technology with its Saskatchewan Power Boundary Dam Project, a coal-fired, large-scale plant. However, CCS is still quite controversial. Some believe it’s an excuse to continue to use fossil fuels for longer, whereas others are pointing to the absolute need to begin to delve into the technology right away. Edinburgh University CCS Professor Stuart Haszeldine says, “if this does not happen, then, logically, all the carbon extracting companies should gradually become defunct.”
This is not the first plan for such technology in the area. In fact, over the years about a dozen different plans were created and many start dates were announced but nothing was put into action. One of the barriers of entry for this alternative has been that industry insiders are hesitating to make the pricy initial investments required to get started. However, research has found that it is actually much less expensive than immediately beginning to reject the fossil fuel and mining industries. Another motivator is the newly-created pressure for something to be done about climate change as emphasized by the Paris Agreement of December 2015.
Rotterdam makes for a specifically attractive location as it is the largest port in Europe and it is already home to a large network of pipes that could be used for the project. It also boasts a wonderful central EU location and easy access for Belgium and Germany.
What do you think about burying greenhouse gases at sea? Are you comfortable with the idea? We really have to stop and wonder if this is a solution that will be beneficial to all. It will help reduce greenhouse gases in our atmosphere but will it pose a new threat to our marine environment?