Gard Highlights ‘Teething Problems’ Associated with Exhaust Gas Scrubbers

ship emissions
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Ship owners and operators who have opted to retrofit their vessels with Exhaust Gas Cleaning Systems, aka scrubbers, to comply with the upcoming IMO 2020 low sulphur fuel rules should be aware of hazards associated with the use of the systems in order to decrease the number of incidents in the future, Norwegian marine insurer Gard says.

In a recent article posted to its website, Gard takes a look at a few scrubber-related claims it has already handled as more and more vessels are equipped with the systems.

With the IMO 2020 deadline fast approaching, it is estimated that some 3,000 vessels will have scrubbers installed in order to meet the .5 percent sulphur limit.

For the vast majority of owners and their crew members, scrubber systems are regarded as a new technology and, as with any new system, they should expect some “teething problems,” explains Gard. 

Gard has seen a few fire incidents 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 a few other incidents, corrosion from scrubber waste, which is corrosive, led to water ingress into areas such as the engine room, ballast tanks and cargo holds.

Scrubber damage due to poor workmanship and thermal shock is also an issue, according to Gard. In one instance, a vessel regularly trading in Northern Europe with an open-loop scrubber installed had to changeover to low sulphur fuel when visiting a port that had regulations in place banning discharge of wash water. The vessel was still required to run the scrubber in dry mode, i.e. with wash water supply pumps turned off, in order to allow for the passage of hot exhaust gasses. After departure from port, wash water pumps had to be started and cold sea water sprayed through the nozzles inside the scrubber.

Upon an inspection of the system, the crew noticed damage to the nozzles, de-mister housing and drains. A subsequent survey indicated a variety of causes, such as thermal shock, poor workmanship by the yard, and poor design.

The scrubber in that case had been in service for nearly two years, said Gard. 

“As any other equipment or machinery onboard the ship, scrubbers are not immune from breakdown and damage,” Gard said in the article. 

“In time, managers, their crew, and the manufacturers gain more experience in such matters and the frequency of such incidents will decrease. Until that time, it is important for the industry to share the lessons learned from scrubber related breakdowns to benefit the industry overall,” said Gard. 

Gard has also made a number of recommendations to address the incidents which it highlighted. You can view them on the Gard website here