The noble aspirations to protect the marine environment celebrated by »MARPOL at 50« are undermined when counterfeit parts are chosen for systems onboard working ships.
By Lars Nupnau, Head of Business Development at marine water specialist RWO[ds_preview]
In selecting MARPOL at 50 as its World Maritime Theme for 2023, the International Maritime Organization highlights both the achievements of crafting the International Convention on the Prevention of Pollution from Ships and the need to keep the marine environment centre stage.
However, while there is no doubt that ‘MARPOL at 50 – Our commitment goes on’ acknowledges the tireless efforts regulators make to change shipping for the better, there are grey areas where action appears to be overdue.
When equipment has been designed and certified for its ability to protect the marine environment, using spare parts that have themselves been fully tested and approved is essential for meeting performance expectations. Guarantees, warranties and insurance policies rely on approved spares being used. But maritime regulations remain irresolute on the matter of counterfeit spare parts.
RWO has been supplying high quality, German-made marine pollution protection systems for over 45 years – with over 16,000 oily water separators (OWS) delivered worldwide. Purchasers who unknowingly choose substandard counterfeit parts – or are tempted to do so by pricing when they can’t tell the difference – are taking a risk that they may not fully appreciate. For example, as a starting point, fines could be a hundred times the cost of the spare part in question.
Unfortunately, cheap copies of the coalescers used to remove impurities in the first stage of the OWS process are widespread. A purchasing manager will be able to tell that carbon cartridges are a physical fit for an OWS, but it won’t be possible to tell if they deliver the same capacity or functionality just by looking. There are examples where the carbon wall is much thinner than it should be, and others where oil is collected in the filter for a period and then, suddenly, there’s a secretion of large oil droplets.
RWO prides itself for innovation and quality, its coalescers feature a high-performance material mix and achieve a coalescent effect optimised for automatic backflush to secure long service life. Furthermore, customers are increasingly aware that RWO absorber cartridges last twice as long in service. To support customers and ensure compliance with MEPC.107(49), RWO also offers an oil content meter (OCM) exchange program, in addition to a complete OWS service package that includes mandatory accuracy checks.
Class and flag state approvals are there for a reason, and part of it is that fake parts are not worth the potential costs – to safety and the environment.
In fact – in common with the situation regulators faced when they completed the first version of MARPOL 50 years ago – approved technologies, owner best practice and crew training remain the cornerstones for protecting the marine environment. Therefore, we salute MARPOL at 50, but at the same time we invite stakeholders to remind themselves that using counterfeit parts undermines much of the good work.