There are cases where shipping companies have had to pay millions of dollars in fines because they failed to comply with environmental regulations. While these may be extreme cases, the fact is that legal conventions on pollution (such as MARPOL) are becoming stricter. These apply to everything from greenhouse gases and liquid pollutants to soot and other fine particles. The consequences range from more frequent inspections and harsher fines, to completely banning the shipping company in question from entering a nation’s ports.
Of course, crews have been checking the emissions of their funnels, bilge water separators, sewage systems, and incinerators for decades. But until now, this was a decentralized process. Values from every system were measured separately, all too often by crew members with insufficient training for the job. This called for a solution that minimized the risk of human error: A centralized system that takes measurements from various sources of emissions on board a ship and adds a timestamp and GPS coordinates. The result is a georeferenced logbook of emissions, helping shipowners provide authorities with more detailed information, even years after the data has been captured.
However, the real highlight of the system, known as BlueMon, is its automated control. It recognizes whether the ship is on course to cross a maritime boundary and enter an area where different environmental regulations apply. Warning messages alert the captain if the ship is about to exceed emission limits. He can then either intervene himself or rely on the system to do the work. BlueMon is intelligent enough to independently switch between the individual systems and their valves, ensuring ship emissions stay within the defined limits.
Protecting both the environment and finances
The solution is an attractive option that reduces the crew’s workload and provides greater certainty. Shipowners can be sure that their vessels comply with regulations, which will become increasingly important in years to come, since numerous new regional regulations make it difficult to maintain control manually. Some zones could even be monitored by sensor drones. For this reason, many shipping experts around the world conclude that, today, you absolutely cannot afford to break the MARPOL convention.