The representatives of international organisations, government agencies, industry and academia attending the World Ocean Council’s fourth Sustainable Ocean Summit last week were left in no doubt about the damage oil-lubricated propeller shaft systems are having on the marine environment.
In addressing more than two hundred SOS16 delegates, Thordon Bearings’ Director of Marketing and Customer Service, Craig Carter, explained that the fleet of 45,000 ocean-going vessels that continue to operate oil-lubricated shaft bearings are estimated to be leaking the equivalent of five Exxon Valdez oil spills into the ocean year-on year.
Acknowledging the raft of environmental challenges shipowners are already faced with, he said that the shipping industry must decide whether ocean sustainability can really be achieved with the continued use of a system that discharges between 130 million and 244 million litres of operational oil into the ocean environment every year.
Falling short of calling for an outright ban on these systems, Carter said: “Shipowners have a decision to make – continue to use oil systems that have the potential to pollute and may not meet pollution regulations or return to seawater lubrication. Since we started installing seawater lubricated bearing systems in the early 1990s, we have prevented over 62 million litres of oil being discharged into our oceans and seas. A seawater lubricated propeller shaft bearing system is the only system that guarantees compliance with all pollution regulations and has zero impact on environment. Isn’t it time we prevented propeller shaft discharges of oil from all commercial ships?”
In his presentation, Sustainable Practices from the Past Benefiting Shipowners and the Oceans, Carter informed World Ocean Council members about the history of the water-lubricated stern tube bearing system, a technology that has come on leaps and bounds from the problematic days of Lignum Vitae bearings and stuffing boxes.
“Polymer materials and bearing designs have advanced to ensure long life performance with very low operating costs. All of the major classification societies have now revised their shaft withdrawal and inspection regimes due to the new technology allowing full monitoring of a seawater system. The technology now offers the technical equivalent of an oil lubricated stern tube but without the risk of pollution and associated fines. Shipowners now have a viable, cost-effective option.”
Carter’s address on the final day of the four-day conference, which took place in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, followed this year’s underlying theme Ocean 2030: Sustainable Development Goals and the Ocean Business Community.
The annual event brought together ocean industry leaders from shipping, oil and gas, fisheries, aquaculture, ports, mining, insurance, finance, renewable offshore energy, tourism, shipbuilding, marine technology and other industries.
Authoritative presentations were given on 15-year projections for 14 ocean business sectors, many of which were delivered by the heads of global industry associations, including UNESCO, the World Bank, IMO, WWF and the European Commission.
The results of the Ocean 2030 session will now feed into WOC and ocean business community efforts to address ocean sustainable development and the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN, especially for SDG 14 on the Ocean.