Cruising's Environmental Impact

pollution solutions

By Mia Bennett 04-14-2017 05:33:57

(Article originally published in Jan/Feb 2017 edition.)

From January/February 2017 Edition

The industry strives to go green and atone for past missteps.

As the cruise industry expands, so too does its environmental footprint. Ballast water, gray water, black water, chemical pollution, solid waste and oil are some of the pollutants spewed out by cruise ships. Air pollution is another, as is noise pollution that can disrupt marine mammals. The industry has been under a harsh spotlight for its polluting practices following Princess Cruises’ guilty plea in December 2016 to federal charges of years of illegal oil dumping, for which the company will pay $40 million in fines.

Despite the scandal at Princess, cruise lines are striving to go green. Andrew Korney, Director of Sales at Terragon Technologies, says, “I think the most interesting thing I’ve seen is the industry seems to be looking for cleaner solutions. They’re already regulated by the annexes of MARPOL, but they’re starting to be a little more proactive and forward-thinking.” Major regulatory changes are pushing the industry in a more environmentally friendly direction as well.

Waste & Waste Water Disposal

Montreal-based Terragon provides various waste and wastewater technologies to cruise lines including the Micro Auto Gasification System (MAGS™) and Wastewater Electrochemical Treatment Technology (WETT™). MAGS is a small, self-fueling appliance that converts any organic combustible waste, including food, paper and plastic, into useful energy via gasification. WETT uses electrochemistry to treat all forms of wastewater to 5 ppm discharge and requires less maintenance than other technologies that rely on numerous filters.

Ideally, both systems should be installed together. “MAGS will generate a small amount of water that needs to be treated,” Korney explains, “which will go to WETT-O, our oily water treatment system. That will generate sludge, which can provide energy for MAGS, and you’re left with energy or water for reuse or discharge.”

New IMO regulations are driving advances in pollution control, and IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) Resolution 227(64) requires lower nitrogen and phosphorous levels in black water discharge in Special Areas (currently only the Baltic Sea for passenger ships and globally for non-passenger vessels) to prevent ocean nitrification.

The regulation has helped motivate ACO Marine, which provides wastewater treatment systems to the cruise industry, to develop its Bio Sword technology. Bio Sword uses a patented filtration method and UV light to treat wastewater and remove pollutants to levels below minimum requirements. To continue to meet and exceed regulatory standards, Managing Director Mark Beavis states, “We are looking to develop treatment solutions that comply with the Passenger Special Areas requirement detailed in Section 4.2 of the new IMO MEPC 227(64) to allow compliant passenger vessel operations globally.”

Going beyond the regulators, ScienceCo/FAST, the marine division of Bio-Microbics, has provided Type II marine sanitation devices to over 2,000 cruise ships since 1969. The company’s BioBarrier® membrane bioreactor system allows total recycling of both black and gray water. Director of Marketing Jennifer Cisneros says “It’s really clients mandating these types of options and treatment technologies beyond just meeting regulations.”

Ballast Water

When a ship takes on ballast water in one area and discharges it in another, it can spread invasive species – with potentially devastating environmental impacts. To combat this problem and after a long wait, the IMO Ballast Water Management Convention will enter into force in September now that Finland has ratified it, pushing the total tonnage of contracting states over the necessary 35 percent threshold.

New ballast water systems are often inspired by older technologies. For over 40 years, Evoqua has promoted its Chloropac® Seawater Electrochlorination Systems to prevent marine and biological fouling. Shipowners have a financial interest in preventing marine growth as it can raise operating costs if it leads to fouling in a ship’s cooling systems. To date, the technology has been installed in approximately 3,000 ships.

The widespread use of Chloropac led Evoqua to develop its SeaCURE® ballast water system, which similarly uses electrochlorination. Darren Dale, Evoqua’s Director of Sales, explains why the company is currently focused on ballast water management, particularly in response to the new IMO convention: “If there are 40,000 ships that need to be done in the next five years, that’s an awful lot of ships to get done.”

Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics (WWL) is another company pushing innovation. The importance of keeping hulls free of microorganisms can make a big difference in vessel performance. “A cleaner vessel hull means less power draw from the main engine,” explains Anna Larsson, Head of Sustainability, “which means lower sulfur and CO2 emissions and a cleaner shipping operation as well as a more efficient one. There is no contradiction to being operationally efficient and environmentally responsible.”

WWL sponsors the $100,000 Orcelle Award, given annually to a company that creates a zero-emission marine- or land-based technology. In 2013 Norwegian startup ECOsubsea AS won the award for its in-port hull-cleaning technology, which removes bio fouling debris while preserving the hull coating. ECOsubsea CEO Tor M. Østervold notes, “We seek to further expand our innovative service offerings in cooperation with our strong partners to combat future biological challenges.”

Air Pollution

Removing sulfur, black carbon and particulates from a ship’s emissions requires the exhaust gas cleaning technology known as “scrubbers.” Puerto Rico-based Triton Emission Solutions produces some of the world’s most advanced scrubbers, including DSOX-20, a pre-combustion desulfurization system, and NJORD, a hybrid exhaust gas scrubber that can work as an open or closed loop system. Whereas open loop systems use seawater as scrubbing fluid that is released back into the ocean, typically in open seas with high-to-moderate alkalinity, closed loop systems are more environmentally friendly. They use fresh water that is recirculated, resulting in only a small amount of discharge into the sea. CEO Anders Aasen states, “We firmly believe that closed loop will be what the whole industry will be held accountable for in the future.”

DuPont is another company that has provided scrubbers to the marine market since acquiring Belco Technologies Corporation, a leader in controlling sulfur oxides emission, in 2006. DuPont’s scrubbers similarly can be customized for either open or closed loop treatment or as hybrid systems, which have both capabilities.

Closed loop systems require adding more tankage to a ship in order to hold the output from the scrubbing process. That poses a problem for cruise lines, says Craig Gundry, Senior Vice President of Operations at IDC Consorzio, because cruise lines are reluctant to sacrifice cabin space or change a vessel’s outside appearance. IDC Consorzio has largely specialized in the design and construction of new ships, but it entered the retrofit market via its ongoing work with Royal Caribbean on eight vessels in its Advanced Emissions Purification project.

Baltec Marine is a single-source engineering and design firm that works with shipping companies on a wide range of projects, including scrubbers. Major installations so far include the TT-Line RoPax vessel Peter Pan and Royal Caribbean’s Celebrity Silhouette. The company sees a big boost to business coming from the forthcoming global sulfur cap of 0.5 percent, which takes effect on January 1, 2020. The cap represents an enormous shift for the industry as the current limit stands at 3.5 percent.

To meet the new standard, Managing Director Andrzej Dzienski says that cruise lines “are either going to buy more expensive fuel or they’re going to buy scrubbers. I don’t see any other technology that’s available.”

Given a potential shortage of low-sulfur fuels, Baltec Marine anticipates a boom in demand for scrubber installations. So far the company has completed over 30 installations that actually exceed the 0.5 percent cap since they were completed to meet the 0.1 percent cap mandated in Sulfur Emission Control Areas. Those 30 projects amount to approximately 10 percent of global installations. “This number represents experience, training, knowledge of the systems – something you cannot just buy,” Dzienski notes.

Polar Shipping

Regulations have their limits, especially in fragile polar waters. On January 1, 2017, the IMO’s Polar Code came into effect. Yet environmental organizations are critical of the code’s potency. John Kaltenstein, Senior Policy Analyst at Friends of the Earth U.S., doesn’t believe it will significantly change Arctic cruising.

He points to heavy fuel oil as an area where the code is lacking: “There’s a recommendation there with respect to the Arctic, but we felt more should have been done with respect to a fuel that poses so much risk to the region.” He adds that the Polar Code’s sewage provisions are weak and there is no gray water provision at all.

Given a deficient Polar Code, sustainable Arctic shipping may depend on the goodwill of cruise lines. Kaltenstein is optimistic, reflecting that the pioneering voyage of Crystal Serenity through the Northwest Passage last summer set a strong precedent in using marine distillate over heavy fuel oil: “Hopefully other lines in the region will follow suit. It’s definitely a good start.”

By Mia Bennett

MIA BENNET is a frequent contributor to the magazine.

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.