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Thursday, October 17, 2019 

According to Norwegian risk management specialist Gard, there are concerns associated with both of the two most popular options to comply with IMO 2020; use of compliant fuels and SOx Exhaust Gas Cleaning Systems (EGCS), often referred to as scrubbers, and when an incident has occurred, the maritime industry needs to learn and prevent future cases.

With nearly 3,000 vessels expected to have scrubbers installed by 2020, Gard has examined the teething problems encountered with this relatively new technology. A recent 'Insight' publication discusses a number of scrubber-related claims, while recognising that compliant fuels, too, are expected to bring about their own challenges.

Gard has seen a few fire incidents during retrofitting of exhaust gas cleaning equipment, where sparks from welding, metal cutting, and other hot work activities fell into the inner chamber of the scrubber through uncovered openings, and in one case the fire also spread to the engine room through glass reinforced epoxy (GRE) piping. In one particular case investigations revealed that crew had requested that the yard cover the openings but this was not done. The fire risk to scrubber packing during the hot work activity had not been identified by yard personnel, and many of them were not aware that internal components of the scrubber were combustible.

In other incidents, within 10-15 months of an open loop scrubber being installed, corrosion of discharge pipework resulted in water ingress into areas such as the engine room, ballast tanks and cargo holds. Absence of, or poor application of, protective coatings on the inside of the pipe and at the welds, along with poor application of paint on hull plating near the washwater discharge were identified as the causes of accelerated corrosion.

Another cause of problems has been scrubber damage due to poor workmanship and thermal shock. An open-loop scrubber-equipped ship had to changeover to low sulphur fuel when visiting a port where washwater discharge was banned, meaning that the scrubber had to be run in 'in dry mode', with washwater pumps started and cold sea water sprayed through the nozzles after departure from the port. Subsequent inspection revealed damage to the nozzles, demister housing and drains. A survey indicated a variety of causes, such as thermal shock, poor workmanship and poor design. The scrubber had been in service for nearly two years.

Gard has issued a comprehensive list of recommendations to mitigate the risks of further incidents like these, and suggests owners consider approaching scrubber manufacturers and request them to share information on technical failure related incidents.

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