Sit Down with Katharine Palmer, Environmental Manager at Lloyd’s Register [INTERVIEW]

Rob Almeida
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June 19, 2012

Katharine Palmer, shown here, promoting World Maritime Day at Lloyd’s Register’s exhibition stand on the final day of Posidonia. Photo: Lloyd’s Register

I recently met up with Katharine Palmer, Environmental Manager of Marine Product Development at Lloyd’s Register for an interview.  Here’s what she had to say:

Tell us a little bit about yourself Katharine, how did you end up in the role you’re in at Lloyd’s Register?

My background is in environmental science and environmental chemistry and I’ve always worked in the marine industry ever since I graduated from university.  Initially, I worked for an oil major and then moved on from there to my current role at Lloyd’s Register about a year ago.

Why did you make that move?

Because I think I had personally achieved everything I could.  When I started in the industry, the external focus on environmental impacts of shipping was increasing and shifting from marine pollution prevention to wider global issues such as climate change and air quality. This meant shifting from managing operational impacts to a leading and influencing environmental policy and regulation.  I think I had achieved my personal goals and decided to move on to a new challenge.

What are you working on now?

Pretty much everything.  I don’t think there’s any part of ship operations that has an environmental impact that I’m not involved with.  Whether it be energy efficiency, air pollution, marine environment, marine ecosystems, noise and vibration.

So only shipping related topics?

Yes, we have a separate division that works on the offshore oil and gas side of things.  I may help them now and again, but at the moment, it’s predominantly shipping.

What are some of the new things that Lloyd’s Register is working on?

One of the most recent products we’ve launched is our free ECA-calculator.  In terms of compliance with the sulfur emissions regs, this tool helps with decision-making and allows shipowners to create operational scenarios for their own fleet and be able to work out what the best scenario is in terms of emissions compliance.

It takes into account the operating condition of the ship, time in the emissions control area (ECA), costs for scrubber installations, and then inputs for high and low fuel prices.   You can then work out for your ship, and your operational profile, whether it’s more economical to use distillates, or the scrubbing route.

So this tool would be used if you were looking to refit a ship, is that right?

Yes that’s correct.  It’s used in order to make a business decision on how you’re going to comply with the sulfur regulations.

Would this be something you might take to a naval architecture firm and say, look, based on what my operational profile, this is what I need?

No, this is more of a financial or commercial tool that you would say, “I’ve done some modeling, I’ve worked out cost scenarios, the best option for my ship based on its operating profile is to install a scrubber.”

You see it’s just that first step, and then you start to look at what kind of scrubber as you get more and more detailed.

What are the different variables within this program?

Cost of a scrubber installation while looking at the ship’s configuration, different fuel price scenarios, percentage of time in the ECA, as well as the operating conditions of the ship.

Where are the major ECAs in the world?

US, Baltic Sea, North Sea and the English Channel.

Do you work with, or are you familiar with Rightship at all?  They seem to be doing some similar work, are they friends of yours, competitors?

[Laughing] They are friends of mine! I know quite a few people who work there.

I interviewed Warwick Norman a few months ago, he’s a good guy and they seem to be doing some really interesting work as well.

We don’t have any “ratings” like Rightship does, but we can help by providing technical guidance to our clients such as what is the right rating system for them to enter in.  Obviously the EVDI, or existing vessel design index, is something that Rightship put out there and we are seeing some of our clients being impacted from a commercial perspective due to rating schemes, but I guess for me, in my role, it is ensuring that if there is going to be a rating scheme for existing ships, then is it technically correct? and can it be applied globally?

What we’re seeing at the moment in the industry is that there are a number of these schemes being created which may not be based on the correct technical considerations.  In terms of existing ships, the main things that are going to impact efficiency are outside of the ship owners control such as environmental factors and particularly those owners who have ships on charter where the fuel consumption is in the charter party agreement.  They may not have the flexibility to change things.

Do you feel that they use of LNG, when looking at the entire supply chain, really reduces industry’s overall carbon footprint?

Interesting question.  On a per ship basis, it’s going to have CO2 savings, there’s no question.  I think that there is still a lot more analysis work to be done however, when it comes to looking at the energy use and carbon emissions across the entire supply chain: from getting the gas out of the ground, cooling it to compress it 600 times, keeping it compressed, transporting it, storing it, organising local logistics, regasifying it and only then using it as a fuel.  That supply chain will use a lot of energy.

Thanks, Katherine!

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