The EPA has received reports that Oldendorff Carriers’ ship (MV Helena Oldendorff) narrowly avoided a collision recently near Singapore due to a catastrophic failure in its scrubber systems.
The incident occurred due to a fault in the scrubber system which caused a catastrophic failure and flooded the exhaust lines and main engine of the ship with tons of seawater being dumped into the ocean. The scrubber failure and its flooded engine room caused the ship to lose propulsion in one of the busiest areas for maritime traffic in the world, and it was a miracle that a tragic incident did not occur.
Reports indicate that the scrubber failure [an open-loop scrubber system made by scrubber manufacturer Yara], was so bad that the ship has been immobilized since August 26th and is unable to sail with its cargo of Iron Ore loaded in Guaíba Island, Brazil in July by Vale. Vale’s cargo remains trapped onboard the Helena Oldendorff in Singapore as of the date of this report. It is unclear whether this is a fault common in Yara’s scrubbers or caused by the onerous maintenance demands by the system.
This incident is another example of why greedy ship owners trying to save a few dollars on fuel by “cheating the system” and using scrubbers are dangerous to us all. Not only do these unreliable scrubber systems break down and cost ship owners additional money, but in addition, and more importantly, the scrubbers require more fuel to run AND dump a significant amounts of pollution into the world’s oceans.
These scrubber systems, that are only allowed because these greedy ship owners lobbied IMO for many years and got an “IMO loophole” are exploiting the system and pose a risk to both seafarers AND the environment. As these scrubber systems frequently break down, the danger presented by these ships grows ever present.
The Helena Oldendorff should serve as a reminder that in addition to the ongoing pollution caused by scrubbers (this is if/when they actually function) a failure of these polluting scrubbers may cause a collision, releasing tons of toxic fuel/water washing into the ocean and costing crew members and others their lives.
We call upon the cargo owners (many of whom have strict green policies) that are utilizing these ships in our oceans to be very wary of their actions in aiding and abetting the continued use of scrubbers. It is unsurprising that Vale is involved in this incident as Vale has had its fair share of environmental disasters with dire consequences and loss of life in the same area this cargo was shipped from. (https://news.bloombergenvironment.com/environment-and-energy/iron-ore-giant-vale-faces-another-environmental-disaster-in-brazil )