Finnish shipping group Meriaura Group has revealed its ambitions of creating a zero-waste fleet in the coming period.
In late 2018, the group, which comprises Meriaura and VG-Shipping, announced the research collaboration with the Finnish Transport Safety Agency (Trafi) for reducing ship-generated waste.
As explained, the purpose of the study was to assess what measures could be taken by the shipowner and its ships to deliver all of the vessel-generated waste to the port reception facilities or to reach a “zero-waste” level on board.
During last autumn, five Meriaura vessels reported and specified the amount of ship-generated waste, and how and where the waste was removed from the ship.
“Recently, there has been a lot of talk about the air emissions of shipping, which at Meriaura Group we have tried to reduce by increasing the use of bio-oil in our fleet, using low-sulphur fuel and reducing the overall fuel consumption, for example by combining cargos and with accurate route planning,” Ville Koskinen, Managing Director of VG-Shipping, said.
Apart from the air emissions, sewage is also discharged into the sea by ships. Compared to cruise vessels, cargo ships’ discharges are lower but there are hundreds of cargo carriers sailing in the Baltic Sea. In order to improve the state of the Baltic Sea, nothing should be discharged there, according to the group.
“At Meriaura Group, we have taken steps to improve the situation. During the spring, we have prepared a project to minimize the environmental footprint of our fleet. The ships have sorted the recyclable waste already for a long time, as MARPOL requires. The problem has been that all ports have not been able to pick up sorted waste, and sometimes the recyclable waste sorted onboard is dumped into the same container,” Koskinen explained.
He added that the ability of ports to handle and receive different waste materials are crucial for minimizing the environmental footprint of vessels.
Going beyond the minimum requirements set by MARPOL, Meriaura’s waste reduction program MERI comprises 4 subareas — minimizing of waste at source, enhancing onboard process & operation to reduce waste, recycling of waste materials is amplified and improving handling of residual waste products.
In the first project phase, ideas from Meriaura ships are collected for the practical implementation of the abovementioned issues.
“We have instructed our ships that after July 1, 2019, all grey and black waters must be left in the ports and discharges into the sea are not allowed, not even at a distance of 12 nautical miles from ashore. Although many ships have waste water treatment and purification equipment, we think it is important for the whole to put an end to all kinds of emissions into the sea.”
In the next phase of the project, scheduled for autumn 2019, Meriaura plans to create standards for all the fleet’s practices aimed at reducing consumption, improving recycling and reuse of materials as well as minimizing food waste.
“We hope that the ports in the Baltic Sea, where facilities to receive waste and recycled materials are still in need of improvement, are willing to take up the challenge,” Koskinen further said.
“The goal of our project is to make the VG-Shipping fleet the least waste producing fleet by the end of 2020. Our broader goal is to make this a standard for the whole industry. Legislation on the discharges to the sea and MARPOL also need tightening,” he pointed out.
The International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) MARPOL Convention regulates which waste fractions must be landed in ports and which types of waste can be discharged into the sea.
In the Baltic Sea, the emission standards and limits are already partly tighter than in many other sea areas. However, even in the Baltic Sea, it is still allowed to remove certain types of waste to the sea at a distance of 12 nautical miles (22.2 km) from the nearest land. These include food waste, crushed and disinfected or untreated grey and black waters and bilge water under certain conditions.
Meriaura Group’s fleet comprises over twenty dry cargo ships and newly-built multipurpose deck cargo carriers designed for project and special cargo.