From Climate Change to Smarter Seal Solutions

By Lagersmit

The entire world has been talking about it for years now and it still remains a hot topic: climate change. This change has a lot of consequences for several sectors and the maritime industry also has to deal with this. How does climate change impact the maritime industry?

Clear responses to this development are the increasingly stringent regulations for ships.

Vessel General Permit

To start off, one of the regulations that has a huge impact on the maritime sector is the Vessel General Permit (VGP) issued by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This regulation came into force on 19 December 2013. One high-impact point of the VGP is that Environmentally Acceptable Lubricants (EAL) are mandatory in all oil-to-water interfaces (such as stern tube seals and thruster seals) on all merchant vessels of 79 feet or longer that are sailing in US coastal and inland waters.

EALs are oils that are biodegradable and minimally toxic. They must be approved by labelling programmes such as Nordic Swan, Blue Angel, European Ecolabel or OSPAR. However, not every bio oil is an EAL. To make sure the lubricant a ship owner uses is compliant with VGP’s requirements, it is recommended to check this with the oil supplier.

Another matter ship owners have to check if they are going to sail with an EAL, is the compatibility of the EAL with the rubber compound of the seal that keeps the oil inside the vessel. For example, seal supplier Lagersmit keeps a list of tested EALs with the company’s rubber compounds. The most up-to-date list of EALs can be found at:

On the other hand, if it is technically infeasible for ships to use EALs, the VGP makes an exception for them. This means that no EAL alternative is available for the vessel’s application or that the suitable EAL is not available at the next port. For these ships, mineral oils are permitted. If a ship owner wants to qualify for this, a letter of technical infeasibility must be obtained. This document should be on board at all times, so it can be shown to the authorities when needed.

Polar Code

Another regulation that has a major impact on the industry is the introduction of the International Code of Safety for Ships Operating in Polar Waters (Polar Code). On 1 January 2017 the Code entered into force and it intends to cover the full range of shipping-related issues which are relevant to navigation in waters surrounding the two polar areas. The relevant issues are:

  • ship design, construction and equipment;
  • operational and training concerns;
  • search and rescue;
  • the protection of the unique environment and ecosystems of the polar regions.

The Arctic (North Pole region) and Antarctic (South Pole region) are relatively isolated and have a harsh climate. IMO adopted the Polar Code, because these polar regions are as affected by human activities as the rest of the world. However, the isolation of the polar areas make them more amenable for external influences and, in particularly, more fragile for those resulting from human activities.

Shipping in Polar areas

IMO has always been concerned about ships operating around the polar regions. Poor weather conditions and the relative lack of navigation systems stimulate these concerns and create challenges for mariners. Also, separation of these areas makes rescue or clean-up operations harder and more expensive. The cold temperatures may lower the performance of diverse components of the ship, varying from deck machinery and emergency equipment to sea suctions.

Ship owners that want to operate in polar areas are required to apply for a Polar Ship Certificate. This warranty classifies the ship in one of three categories:

  • Category A: ships designed for operation in polar waters in at least medium first-year ice, which may include old ice inclusions;
  • Category B ship: a ship not included in Category A, designed for operation in polar waters with at least thin first-year ice, which may include old ice inclusions;
  • Category C ship:  a ship designed to operate in open water or in ice conditions less severe than those included in Categories A and B.

To be considered for a Polar Ship Certificate, ship owners need to make an assessment to show the predictable range of operating conditions and risks the ship may face in the polar areas. The Code does not apply to fishing vessels, ships less than 500 GT and ships that are exempt.

How does Lagersmit contribute to this development?

In response to several ‘green regulations’, the company offers zero-emission sealing solutions for ships. Take for example the Supreme Ventus® and Supreme Athmos; both shaft seals that guarantee zero-emissions of oil. Find out more on Lagersmit’s stand at the Europort exhibition in Rotterdam:

When: 7–10 November 2017;

Where: Ahoy, Rotterdam – stand 7308.


Disclosure: This article is paid for and produced by Lagersmit and does not necessarily reflect the view of 

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