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REPORT (Summary) Clean ship - an opportunity for environmentally enhanced shippingy)

A report has been presented (may 2003) dealing with chemical products - including fuels - used in shipping. The aim of the project is to show how an environmentally enhanced ship could be, by drawing on good examples in practice today. The study, entitled 'Rent skepp kommer lastat' concentrates on existing ships and the potential changes that could be implemented now. The initiative underway in the Gothenburg and west Sweden regions aims to speed up the development of environmental improvements in the shipping industry using unconventional methods.

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REPORT Clean solutions för ships! (pdf 2,5 Mb)

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Mind the gap! Download documentation and presentations from the seminar.

Short documenation of the seminar and all presentations (pdf 5,2 Mb)

Short documentation of the seminar (pdf 265 Kb)

Ulf Duus, Grön Kemi (pdf 809 Kb)
Thomas Stenhede, Wärtsilä (pdf 755 Kb)
Per Holmström, Munters (pdf 225 Kb)
Benny Carlson, MarinFloc (pdf 504 Kb)
Chris Wholley, Vickers Oil (pdf 622 Kb)
Håkan Friberg, SSA (pdf 266 Kb)
Åsa Wilske, Port of Gothenburg (pdf 233 Kb)
Niel Eckert, ECE (pdf 501 Kb)
Bertil Arvidsson, SSA (pdf 556 Kb)
Eelco Leemans, Seas at Risk (pdf 249 Kb)

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Jan Ahlbom and Ulf Duus received the environmental price "Miljöbojen" 2004 from the Port of Stockholm, for the report "Rent skepp kommer lastat".

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The environmental work with shipping continues within the Clean Shipping Project


BUNKER FUEL By Jan Ahlbom and Ulf Duus (Goteborg 2004.10.07)

Enormous amounts of bunker fuel are consumed each year by the world fleet of cargo and commercial vessels as well as the military ones. Recent estimates give figures around 290 million tons where about 80% is heavy fuel oil. Totally there are about 90.000 merchant vessels over 100 gross tons as well as almost 20.000 military vessels in the world (1).

The heavy fuel oil (HFO) mainly consists of residual refinery streams from the distillation or cracking units in the refineries. The crude quality as well as the refinery process governs, to a large extent, what type of HFO you´ll end up with. For example a high sulphur crude will result in a high sulphur HFO and catalytically cracked residual oil will contain more carcinogenic polycyclic aromatics (PCA*) than a "straight run" residual oil from atmospheric distillation (2).

Typical values for a European catalytically cracked HFO of the viscosity 380 cST, are around 2.6% sulphur and 13-18% polycyclic aromatics. Low sulphur fuel (~0.5% S) may have lower values of polycyclic aromatics. Other components from the crude like organo-metallic or metallic substances can also be found in the HFO as well as additives like "pour point depressants", "combustion improvers" etc.(5)(6)(2).

All HFOs on the market are classified as carcinogenic (cat. 2), harmful and dangerous for the environment acccording to the EU Dangerous Substances Directive (3). Additionally there are reports about hazardous waste and other chemical waste streams finding the way into heavy fuel oils today (4).

Other bunker fuels than the HFO are the marine diesel oil (MDO) and the marine gas oil (MGO). These are distillates from the refinery process with much lower viscosity, lower sulphur content (MDO usually <1%S, MGO< 0.2% S) and usually lower PCA than the HFO (6)(7).

Bunker fuel - and especially the heavy fuel oil - may constitute a risk for man and the environment on a number of occasions during its handling and use on board a ship:

1. Bunker operations - This is when the fuel is transferred from small bunker boats to the receiving ship. It can be done at berth but also out at sea, day or night all the year round. Large amounts are usually handled under sometimes bad conditions. Things can - and have - gone wrong and a large spill may have a crucial effect on the marine life.

2. Bunker handling on board - Inevitably there will be a direct contact between the fuel and personnel in the engine room. HFO is classified as carcinogenic and there is also shown a higher frequency of certain cancer types among engine room personnel (lung, urinary bladder). Additionally it is shown that certain PCA components from the HFO are found in the urine of persons who have been exposed to HFO on the skin. It is also shown that a damage of the genetic material actually occurs (8)(9).

3. Emissions from fuel burning. Emissions mainly depending on fuel quality are those of sulphur and polycyclic aromatics. The larger the amount in the fuel - the larger the emission. Sulphur emissions from shipping are a major and increasing contributary cause of acid downfall which puts a heavy burden on forests, soil and lakes in for example Scandinavia. Sulphate particles may also create health problems in densely populated areas (10) (11)(12).

Emissions of polycyclic aromatics are also shown to be proportional to their content in the fuel. An estimate made for Goteborg reveals that one big ship entering the harbour and using catalytically cracked HFO, emits the same amount of PCA as 1200 heavy trucks (13)(6).

4. Sludge handling and tank cleaning. Spills of fuel oil on board should end up in the sludge tank but today´s mixtures of fuel oils, lubricants, detergents, solvents and water often create stable emulsions in the bilge water tank. Without modern bilge water cleaning equipment this may lead to either discharge of bilge water containing hazardous components at sea or leaving all waste water ashore. Harbours in their turn are usually not equipped with cleaning facilities for large amounts of these complex mixures.

Despite over 20 years of international conventions and bans, cleaning of sludge tanks and product tanks is still going on at sea. This leads to an everlasting presence of thich oil-slicks all along the Swedish coast. Every year about 100 000 long-tailed ducks die at Hoburg´s bank in the south Baltic Sea due to oil spills(14)(15).

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The best option is - as usual - to tackle the problem at its source. If, for example, sulphur and PCA were removed from the residuals or cleaner distillates were more used as bunker fuels, many of the risks would radically decrease. The cost of desulphurized residual oil is calculated to be around 50-90 Euros extra per ton (2002). Today´s price of standard 380cST HFO is around 140 Euros/ton (5)(16). Almost no refineries in the world desulphurize or dearomatize the residual refinery streams - yet.

There´s a number of measures that can be taken at once though:

Safer bunkering. The Port of Goteborg has carried through a successful project called "Green Bunkering" after having had a serious spill incident at a bunker operation. It was a project in cooperation with the bunker companies, environmental authorities and the Coast Guard. A lot of safety measures were taken as better communication, information, equipment etc. An authorization scheme for bunker boats in the harbour was developed - the Green Bunker Card.

Safer handling of bunker fuel on board. Everyone on board should be fully aware of the fact that heavy fuel oil is carcinogenic and every contact with skin should be avoided. Oil resistant clothing and gloves should always be used in contact with the fuel. Better gloves should be developed for fine mechanical work.

Cleaner fuels - especially in densely populated harbours. Low sulphur and low PCA fuels should primarily be chosen to decrease the burden of acid downfall and the emission of carcinogenic compounds in the environment. The health aspects are especially important in harbours. There distillate fuels should be used as far as possible. Another option is to fit cleaning equipment on board such as scrubbers and particle filters.

Fuel quality directive. Today there is insufficient standardization and control of bunker fuel to ships. Shipowners do not really know what they get until it can be too late. A fuel quality directive like the one for fuels ashore, should be developed. Primarily within the EU but in the long run globally. To prevent that waste is blended in the fuel parameters like polycyclic aromatics, calcium, zinc, phosphorous and organic halogens should be controlled before the fuel is delivered.

Bilge water cleaning and stopped dumping. The traditional gravimetric bilge water separation is not sufficient for the complex mixtures of oils,surfactants, solvents and water going down to the keelson in modern ships. Active cleaning equipment breaking the stable emulsions should be installed if the bilge water is to be discharged in the sea.
The "no-special fee" system in combination with active surveillance and powerful enforcement of environmental laws should be able to decrease the dumping of oil at sea.

*PCA or polycyclic aromatics is a parameter including polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) but is also covering substituted PAHs with for example sulphur, nitrogen or oxygen.


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1 Corbett, J. J., Koehler, H.W. 2003. Updated emissions from ocean shipping. J. Geophys. Res. Vol. 108(D20), 4650, doi:10. 1029/2003JD003751.

2 Concawe. 1998. Heavy fuel oils. Product dossier no. 98/109. Brussels. ¨

3 Concawe. 2001. Classification and labelling of petroleum substances according to the EU dangerous substances directive (Concawe recommendations - August 2001). Report no. 01/53. Brussels.

4 Intertanko. 2002. A customers´s perspective on Bunker purchases - What do shipowners expect. A presentation by John C. Fawcett-Ellis, Intertanko at a SIBCON conference in Singapore sept. 2002.

5 Beicip-Franlab. 2002. Advice on the costs to fuel producers and price premia likely to result from a reduction in the level of sulphur in marine fuels marketed in the EU. Study C.1/01/2002. DG Environment. European Commission.

6 Ahlbom, J., Duus, U. 2003. Rent skepp kommer lastat. ISSN 1403-168X Projekt Grön Kemi.

7 Concawe. 1985. Health aspects of petroleum fuels - potential hazards and precautions for individual classes of fuels. Report no. 85/51. Brussels.

8 Nilsson, R. 1998. Cancer in seamen with special reference to chemical health hazards.
Dissertation. Department of Internal Medicine, Göteborg University/ Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Umeå University.

9 Nilsson et al. 1997. Genotoxisk effekt av polyaromatiska kolväten vid maskinrumsarbete.
Svenska Läkarsällskapets handlingar Hygiea 1997; Band 106 (häfte 2): 119

10 Entec UK Limited. 2002. Quantification of emissions from ships associated with ship movements between ports in the European Community. July 2002. European Commission.

11 Amann et al. 1999. Integrated assessment modelling for the Protocol to abate acidification, eutrophication and ground-level ozone in Europe. Ministry of housing, spatial planning and the environment. The Hague, Netherlands.

12 EEA. 2002. Environmental Signals 2002. Report 2002/9. The European Environment Agency, Copenhagen, Denmark.

13 Cooper, D.A., Peterson, K. 2002. Real-world emissions from a Pure Car/Truck Carrier Ship. IVL-Rapport B38/02

14 Sveriges Ornitologiska Förening. 1997. Östersjöns fåglar. En liten bok om Östersjön, fåglarna och oljan. Sveriges Ornitologiska Förening i samarbete med Oljebolagen i Sverige (SPI).

15 WWF.2003. Hoburgs bank - utsjöbank i Östersjön. Världsnaturfonden. (

16 (2004-10-05)

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publisher: projekt GRÖN KEMI