Are Medical Exams For Seafaring Crew Detailed Enough?

As with any new employer, part of joining a new team can involve completing a medical examination – this is often par for the course in many places.

But it’s long been known that the medical received before joining a ship, is not in-depth enough to truly cover the needs of all staff.

One part of the shipping company’s role is to ensure that all crew are in as safe an environment as possible whilst in their employ.

It’s not until you consider the risks all around the seafaring crew and within the maritime professions that you really start to get a grasp on what an undertaking this is.

One particular area where the medical exams are not meeting the needs of the crew is around heart conditions. The medical exams don’t currently go into enough detail to uncover any underlying heart conditions so would be missing a crucial piece on how much risk that member is under once aboard.

Simply by stepping onto a ship, you are already in a much more dangerous setting – after all, it goes with the territory doesn’t it?

That perspective is often so widely accepted, that it would be easy to be a little blase about the fact you’re merely following procedural protocol while checking over the health of a new member. If the current measures are also falling short where potential heart issues are concerned, it makes it almost impossible to predict with any accuracy whether an underlying heart problem could cause any future incidents or developments.

So how can shipowners ensure that measures to keep their crew safe are sufficient when the risk of physical injury or loss of health is significantly heightened by the setting?

It’s widely accepted that ship crew are naturally exposed to far more risks than their land-loving peers. Besides the dangers of the ship itself, there are also additional factors such as:

  • Sudden climate change exposure
  • Being exposed to epidemic diseases, both on the ship and in port environments
  • Being exposed to devices with sudden electromagnetic, vibration or sound radiation
  • Heightened stress, physical and psychological strain through the nature of the work
  • Being in countries with low-quality healthcare
  • Logistics of being at sea causing delays in medical assistance.

Other implications to be borne in mind by ships are those involved in ensuring that the staff can get the vital help that they need should health issues crop up while at sea.

According to international regulation set out in the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC 2006), it is expected that:

 “seafarers must receive equal quality of care as the population onshore” 

When we look at the challenges of the environment, in the case of injury or illness this can pose many a logistical problem.

  • Transporting the patient to the hospital from the ship
  • Admission to hospital in a multitude of countries
  • Accessing medicines and ensuring they are administered correctly
  • Transporting the patient to their home country
  • Provision of salary and sickness benefits during their illness and recovery.

From the shipowners perspective, they will also need to factor in additional costs such as production loss while the patient is recovering, the cost of replacing the worker’s output, the potential increase to their insurance premium as well as any time spent on managing the repatriation of the patient.

Add all of that up and what it equals is expensive. 

The shipping industry is also on a tight turnaround. Time is most definitely money in this business, with any slippage potentially costing a fortune.

So what’s the point here?

If you’re in the shipping world – none of that is news to you. So with that in mind, it’s easy to see why any crew member with potential illness, particularly a heart-based one, may be a little loose with their version of the truth when filling in their medical forms.

Disclosing that you may be a heightened risk to a shipowner could easily feel like you’re risking the job itself, so many crew members keep vital medical information to themselves.

One such incident happened in March 2018, when the master of the Sage Amazon bulk carrier suffered a cardiac event while standing on the access ladder above the cargo hold.

Their ship was just about to receive a cargo of cement so the crew been down into the hold to sweep and dry the top of the tank. The master and chief officer went to verify that the work had been done with the chief officer using the port ladder and the master using the starboard ladder.

Literally minutes later, a muffled sound was heard, and the master was seen lying unconscious on the main deck. Help was called for immediately via a portable radio by the Chief Officer and the ICE advisor on-board called the harbourmaster for guidance and requested a boat to bring the master ashore. 

A call to 911 was made and the master’s vital signs were shared with the 911 operator – it was confirmed at this point that the vessel was not carrying an automated external defibrillator. Under guidance, the crew administered medical oxygen and shared the details of the head injury, before handing over to the Coast Guard, who then took the call to dispatch the resources needed to carry out the medical evacuation.

At this point, the master was still breathing, but his forehead was reporting to be cold – 

CPR began but it was reported that the master no longer had a pulse and that the colour of his skin had changed.

Over three hours later, the fast rescue craft had managed to reach the master and their AED went through eight diagnosis cycles but did not initiate defibrillation as the vital signs were not being found.

CPR was resumed alongside remote medical counselling, but shortly afterwards the physician recommended the CPR stop due to the lack of response to CPR, and no presence of vital signs, pronouncing the shipmaster dead.

The post mortem was conducted and showed that the master had a deep laceration on his scalp. His cause of death was initially thought to be the severe cranial trauma, causing the haemorrhage and resulting in the cardiopulmonary arrest. Upon further investigation during the autopsy, it was revealed that the master had, in fact, died of acute myocardial infarction, a heart attack. 

And that although the head injuries were serious, his skull and brain were intact with no presence of cerebral haemorrhage. It transpired that the master had an enlarged heart and that this was not the first incident of the myocardial infarction.

The toxicological analysis showed that the master was taking metformin, a drug used to treat type two diabetes. The master had heart and arterial conditions and had been taking 12 different types of medication to treat diabetes, high blood pressure, renal dysfunction, and heart arrhythmia.

But it was unknown as to whether a physician had prescribed these and family and crew members were totally unaware that any of his medication was being taken.

Despite all of this, the master had undergone a medical examination, a year before, when the medical practitioner, conducting the exam certified him to be fit for duty at sea.

On further exploration, it was revealed that the master had answered ‘no’ to the following questions…

  • Have you ever been hospitalised?
  • Are you aware that you have any medical problems, diseases or illnesses?
  • Are you taking any non-prescription or prescription medications? 
  • Do you have high blood pressure? 
  • Do you have heart or vascular disease?

The master had declared with his signature, that he had fully disclosed all of his medical history and that all of his information was true to the best of his knowledge.

The form did not allow for the master’s medical records to be released for review by a medical practitioner. in this, in this instance, the master had stretched the truth, somewhat.

In this instance, the medical practitioner conducting his initial medical exam had been extremely thorough, and the issue was being held back. 

This most definitely isn’t an isolated case.

One unfortunate piece of this though is that there wasn’t an AED on-board. You can never be certain if an AED would have saved the masters life, but statistics don’t lie and AEDs save hundreds of lives every day through being administered in those crucial first few minutes of cardiac arrest. 

There is a 70% chance of survival if defibrillation is administered within 3 minutes of cardiac arrest

Most cardiac arrests are sudden – they strike without warning. Whether your crew members have disclosed a cardiac illness or not, the fact remains that AEDs save lives within minutes. 

The only thing proven to improve the chance of survival after cardiac arrest is with an electric shock to the heart with an AED to restore a normal heart rhythm. The survival rate drops by 10% with every passing minute.

In the case of this master, even with the fast response crew attending, the medical team with their AED took over 3 hours to reach him to deliver that vital electric shock, which seriously reduced his chances of survival.

That wasn’t the fault of the medical team. At sea, it’s virtually impossible for any emergency response unit to reach your vessel in that time, so it’s up to you to have the right equipment on-board to save a life when necessary.

Lifeforce AED is the only marine approved device for this job. Tested to IP55 rating and rugged military standards, the simple to use device can be operated by anyone in an emergency. Spoken instructions guide the user to aid the patient at each step, including a metronome for CPR cycles.

The device will automatically analyse the patient and determine if a shock is required (i.e. if the problem is sudden cardiac arrest). If this is the case, the rescuer need only press one button to deliver a shock. If no shock is required, it is impossible to deliver one – so the device is incredibly safe to use.

If you’d like more information on the Lifeforce AED and ensuring you have the best equipment on-board to save the lives of your crew, get in touch here.

Industry To Achieve Zero Emissions By 2030

It’s looking like the maritime sector really means business, where tackling emissions and reducing CO2, are concerned and they’re putting their money where their mouth is – literally.

We’re already in the run-up to the enforcement of Sulpher 2020 and September saw the launch of another initiative. Led by ports, oil and shipping companies in the industry, for the first time ever on this scale, this one includes the banks too.

The aim of the initiative is for ships on the high seas and their marine fuels to have zero carbon emissions by 2030. These are no small feats – many shipping companies are currently feeling the pressure to meet the criteria of the impending Sulpher 2020 legislation and the effects of the new initiative look to be more challenging.

Why Now?

The global shipping industry is responsible for 90% of the volume of world trade – without it, it would not be possible to import or export most of our manufactured goods and food.  This contributes around 2.2% to global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and the long term goal of the U.N.’s International Maritime Organization (IMO), is that by 2050 greenhouse gas emissions will be half of what they were in 2008.

If you factor in that the ongoing growth of the global seaborne trade between 2018 and 2023 was predicted to be almost 4% a year, it highlights that this isn’t just a quick fix. As our food trade grows globally, so will the shipping emissions and obviously food is only a part of the picture.

Addressing climate change is a need that can no longer be overlooked. By creating such a united front on reducing emissions – one of the largest factors in global warming – this initiative is going to make it impossible for any shipping company to hide from.

Who’s Involved?

It’s blatantly clear that change is definitely expected across the globe and this drive is a clear indicator that the approach as a whole needs to move with the times. With sixty commercial groups committing to the new “Getting to Zero Coalition” this framework is set to have a much deeper impact than the fuel change imposition of Sulpher 2020.

Some of the key players involved in the coalition are…

  • Owners of the world’s largest container shipping line – A.P. Moller Maersk (MAERSKb.CO),
  • International commodity giants Cargill, COFCO International and Trafigura
  • Mining group Anglo American (AAL.L
  • Banks such as Citigroup (C.N), ABN AMRO (ABNd.AS) and Societe Generale (SOGN.PA

The scale of the initiative is huge with the endorsement of the governments of Belgium, France, Denmark, Palau, Chile, Morocco, South Korea, Ireland, Britain, Sweden and New Zealand as well as leading ports being involved such as Rotterdam and Antwerp.

This is the first time that the financiers have involved themselves in initiatives of this type though. Many banks and financial institutions are backing Getting to Zero, so if you’re thinking you can get away with not playing ball, be warned – any ship financing plans you may have are about to become as buoyant as a tanker in dry dock.

The Challenges…

Whilst the initiative is targeting a 2050 deadline, the coalition is driving for an infrastructure to be created to help vessels and fuels to be ready by 2030. The fact that there isn’t a quick solution here is widely recognised with one member of the coalition, Ben van Beurden, chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L) saying:

“Decarbonizing maritime shipping is a huge task with no simple answer, but it has to be done” 

“We intend to be part of the long-term, zero-carbon, solution by seeking out the most feasible technologies that can work at a global scale. Starting now is essential because ships built today will stay on the water for decades.” 

A.P. Moller Maersk’s chief executive Soren Skou also suggested that as well as cleaning the fuels up, a shift in propulsion technologies was required too “which implies close collaboration from all parties… the coalition launched today is a crucial vehicle to make this collaboration happen”. 

Potential Solutions

With part of the emphasis being on new technology, vessels being built will be expected to meet new criteria – the IMO has adopted mandatory rules on boosting fuel efficiency to cut down CO2 emissions from ship engines but their plan on how to do this isn’t expected until 2023. 

Allowing for the life expectancy of a ship, introducing more deep-sea zero-emission vessels (ZEVs) between now and 2030 is part of the impetus, as any new vessel put into operation in 2030 will be on the water for at least another 15 years.

One proposed solution is to increase the number of electric vessels, though this can only be entertained for shorter journeys. Electric ferries are already in use extensively in Norway, Denmark and Sweden and despite the growth in deploying electric ferries being exponential, the size of batteries needed for longer distances means .a different solution is needed for the deep-sea vessels.

Fuel is next on the agenda as the low tech nature of big ships means they can run on the dredge that other modern engines such as cars can’t cope with. It’s known that they often use the lowest quality fuel dismissed by more refined products, so other fuel options are being explored.

One such solution could be biomass-derived fuels – biofuel or biogas. These hydrogen and synthetic non-carbon fuels, such as ammonia, are either derived from renewable energy or from a combination of fossil fuels combined with CCS (carbon capture & storage). 

These fuels have the advantage of being able to burn on existing combustion engines but the challenge here is mainly going to be sourcing enough of it to meet demand. It needs to be produced in parallel with food production and with other industries increasing their use of biofuel in their own eco transition, there’s going to be serious competition which the shipping industry might not be ready for.

Responsible Lending…

Where this initiative differs is the inherent financial implications. They say money makes the world go round and in this instance, it couldn’t be truer as the whole world comes crashing to a halt without shipping.

When you consider the level of finance and investment in the shipping industry, that’s a whole heap of big wallets. Add to that, the growing interest in where they are investing and the global impact of their commercial strategy, they are under increasing pressure to behave responsibly.

Back in June, a separate initiative was launched, called the Poseidon Principles which will overhaul how banks make their decisions when providing loans to shipping companies.  For the first time ever, their lending process will take into account the companies measures in place to cut their CO2 emissions. This can be facilitated using IMO benchmarks as the gauge to measure standards against as part of their decision making.

Under the Poseidon Principles, signatories have committed to publishing their portfolios annually to include the carbon intensity of their portfolios. The banks will then measure this against a set of trajectories to mark how aligned or misaligned their vessels are against the IMO targets.

Each time an old vessel or new build requires financing, this is often for significant periods ie 10 or 12 years. The impact of the vessel across that timescale will now be assessed, including their carbon footprint allowing banks to finance the more ‘green’ vessels.

Eleven banks, whose combined portfolios account for 20% to 25% of global shipping loans signed up for the agreement and many others are seriously paying attention too. 

It Starts With A Clear Picture…

As you’ve now gathered, dirty emissions are a dirty word. The impact of air pollution from your ships is now going to be under such close scrutiny, that any gaps in your processes are going to be heavily frowned upon. Taking control of a reliable emissions reporting process is the absolute minimum in the journey ahead of us and the Evolution EMS™ can help you with this.

The Evolution EMS™ sends real-time emissions data direct to your desktop so your reporting is accurate and timely and already incorporates all regulatory requirements ensuring your reporting is fully compliant. It’s also future proof so that any future regulatory changes can be incorporated too via plug and play functionality.  

Let’s be realistic – if your reporting process looks remotely clouded, you’re going to attract much more scrutiny from the authorities as well as potentially risk any future lending needs you may have. 

Ask our team how you can use  Evolution EMS™ to easily take control of your emissions reporting now…

A Guide To 2020 And Tank Cleaning

With only a few months before Sulpher 2020 kicks in, it’s time to make sure you know what you are doing regarding your emissions.

The new legislation is asserting that all ship fuel emissions be under 0.5% sulphur, but as we all know this isn’t a simple matter of switching from one fuel to another.

Until now, many of the high sulphur fuel oils that have been predominantly used, have a tendency to stick to the inside of the fuel tanks and pipelines causing sludge. Before you can go anywhere near changing your fuel to a compliant one, you will need to give your tanks and pipelines a thorough cleaning to ensure the new lower sulphur fuel is not contaminated in any way.

Whilst not a mandatory requirement, IMO’s MEPC 73 in October 2018 agreed that administrations should encourage ships flying their flag to develop their own Ship Implementation Plans (SIPs) in readiness for Sulpher 2020.

The various aspects you will need to consider within the implementation of your fuel switch include:

  • A full risk assessment surrounding your process
  • A mitigation plan considering the impact of the new fuels
  • Assess and execute all fuel oil system modifications
  • Any potential modifications required for your fuel oil system
  • Time allocation for tank cleaning
  • Fuel oil capacity
  • Segregation capability
  • Procurement of compliant fuel
  • Fuel changeover plan.

And not forgetting the documentation of this transition of course. Although none of these processes are new to us, the expectation of a high level of cooperation with the authorities during this transition is possibly one piece of this process we daren’t ignore.

So, why do we need to clean our tanks now?

Many ships for quite a while have been using high viscosity high sulphur fuel oil, mainly due to the lower costs of these fuels. The downside to these are that they really stick to the inside of fuel tanks and form layers of semi-solid sediments and asphaltenic sludge

It, therefore, makes sense that many ship operators are now needing to clean their fuel oil tanks to rid them of these residues before putting compliant fuel into them ready for Sulpher 2020.

One of the risks of not cleaning your tanks before loading them with the new fuel is that there is a strong possibility that the residues and build-ups could dissolve and dislodge themselves into the tanks causing operational issues with filters and purifiers. In the worst-case scenario, you may be looking at fuel starvation and loss of power.

When it comes to cleaning your tanks, this is what you will need to take into account…

Manual Tank Cleaning Whilst In Dry Dock

The length of time it takes to clean your tank will vary but can usually be done in two to four days per tank.

You will also need to clean all of the pipework in the fuel oil service system by flushing it all through – this can take one to two weeks in total.

It is worth noting that a ship which has had all of its fuel oil tanks, as well as fuel system cleaned and flushed thoroughly, can start using compliant fuels straight away and will be instantly compliant.

If the fuel system hasn’t been flushed through and you have only cleaned the tanks, this can take two to five days to flush through the pipework before the new fuel can be assumed to be fully compliant with the sulphur cap.

Manual Tank Cleaning Whilst In Service

If you are cleaning your tanks manually while still in service, the risk assessment and safety measures are absolutely vital as per IMO resolution A.1050(27) on Revised Recommendations for entering enclosed spaces aboard ships.

We’ll cover this in more detail below, but this is where gas monitors such as our MGC Simple+ are crucial.

The time required to clean your tank manually will vary depending on how large your tank is and who is cleaning it.

If the cleaning is being done by the existing crew, it often takes around four days per tank, usually closer to a week for an average size tank.

If you are employing a riding crew purely to clean the tank, they can minimise the cleaning time frame substantially taking only two to four days by working in shifts.

Obviously, the tanks will need to be empty before they can be cleaned.

While the tank is empty and clean, this is a good time to check what state it is in. Use this opportunity to inspect heating coils, conduct any pressure tests needed and repair anything which requires it while it is all accessible.

If you are flushing the pipework in the oil fuel oil service system at this point, this will usually take another one to two days.

You must dispose of any residues from the tank cleaning correctly and responsibly – retain it onboard or dispose of it in reception facilities.

Using Additives To Clean Fuel Tanks

If you are looking to avoid the manual cleaning process altogether, you can clean your tanks in service using specialised additives. This is where you can add a specialist additive to fuel to gradually clean the sediments and asphaltenic sludge from high HSFO tanks.

This will need to be done in doses over a period of time before you put the first load of 0.5% fuel in and you’ll need to bear in mind that this process can often take over 6 months to be fully effective.

The Dangers Of Entering Enclosed Spaces

In terms of safety, one of your biggest considerations throughout this process needs to be the monitoring of gas when entering enclosed spaces onboard. Zone zero atmospheres require specialist gas detectors and our MGC Simple+ is designed specifically for this job. instantly guaranteeing compliance and reducing risk.

As the toughest portable gas detector on the planet, it is capable of operating in all situations. It will reliably work in Zone 0 (flammable) and completely inert (oxygen-free) environments.

The other specific benefits of MGC Simple+ are:

  • NO CALIBRATION – unrivalled cutting-edge infrared sensor technology, meaning it’s immune to sensor poisoning.
  • NO CHARGING – the only portable gas detector designed with 3 years of battery life, including up to 90 seconds of alarm each day so you never need to charge the detector.
  • NO COSTS – absolutely no maintenance, servicing or sensor replacement.
  • NO MAINTENANCE – Coming with a lifetime warranty, you can unbox and you’re good to go.
  • NO LIMITS – The most robust and advanced portable gas detector on the planet. With an IP68 rating, it’s safe from the finest dust and can even be submerged under 1.5m underwater for 30 minutes.
  • NO OXYGEN – It will even work in completely inert (oxygen-free) and Zone 0 (flammable) environments. Always charged, and always calibrated it is ready to go anywhere at any time.
  • NO CONFUSION – Completely customisable, the sensor and alarm levels can be adjusted to suit the role required and each device can be digitally assigned to a crew member or department. Device reminders can be configured to alert crew when a bump test is required as per company standards.

One of the many challenges of running a ship is keeping on top of executing and documenting all processes, risk assessments and safety measures. Sadly, many injuries and fatalities onboard are often administrative oversight such as equipment checks being overlooked.

Incorporating totally reliable measures onboard such as MGC Simple+ is peace of mind that your crew are both safe and compliant instantly. Get in touch if you’d like to know more about keeping your crew safe in the ‘big clean’ over the next few months.

Is A Soft Start For Sulpher 2020 On The Horizon?

Any vehicle which uses fuel these days comes under close scrutiny and ships are no exception.

The effects of shipping on the environment were particularly highlighted to the general public when the United Nations publicly excluded it from its 2015 Paris agreement. With the world media as well as many conservational bodies flying the eco flag, the approaching Sulpher 2020 deadline is only going to rocket the activity around this – we’re not quite sure how compliant that rocket fuel will be!

It has long been touted that the marine industry has to catch up with its land-based peers in terms of emission control, but we all know it isn’t that simple.

Any crew will know that one fly in the ‘Sulpher ointment’ is that there is also a need to comply with new MARPOL regulations intended to preserve the marine environment. To comply with these regulations and minimise the impact on marine wildlife through oil spillages, dumping or accidental discharge of harmful substances, it restricts ships from operating their engines in the most efficient way.

So they are expected to reduce their emissions to meet the Sulpher 2020 regulations of their fuel-burning less than 0.5% sulphur content, whilst unavoidably needing to burn more fuel through more carefully executed voyages to comply with MARPOL.

It could easily feel like ships are being handed a double-edged sword – or an impossible task.

A further, and much larger, complication is the availability and cost of compliant fuel – the onus has been placed on ships to comply but the ripple effect will be significant. The knock-on effect to the supply chain costs alone cannot be ignored.

Indonesia has already announced that within it’s coastal waters, its flag-state ships will still be allowed to use 3.5% sulphur fuel after 1 January, due to the costs and availability of compliant fuel and the inherent risk of a price increase for consumer goods. It has given no definite deadline to when it will comply, simply using ‘until the cost and availability of compliant fuel improves’ as it’s caveat.

Unsurprisingly, other countries from the 91 signatories of the regulation are also considering their options potentially asking for a ‘soft start’ to Sulpher 2020. If allowed, this won’t be the first time that a blind eye has been turned to non-compliance of new regulations. Rigid implementation of the VGM container weighing edict in 2016 posed such a risk of chaos in the ports, that for weeks after its introduction many authorities overlooked the initial confusion.

Realistically, for a smooth switchover to the compliant fuel in readiness for IMO 2020, shipowners will need to start this around two months beforehand as it isn’t simply a matter of switching fuels. Tanks will need to be scrubbed as well as all pipework cleaned and flushed thoroughly to remove any residues of the heavy fuel oil (HFO) which could contaminate the compliant fuel.

Tanks will need to be drained to do this so it is estimated that a good two weeks will need to be allowed for this process. Extrapolate this out for your fleet and that’s quite an operation before you address the fact that compliant fuel isn’t readily available or remotely cost-effective.

An additional consideration to consider is the difference around the world in sulphur variations. Even if all fuel was Sulpher compliant, ship engines cannot cope with mixing fuels from different providers all over the world. The ‘sludge’ a vessel would create by mixing one fuel with a 0.47% sulphur content for instance, with a 0.43% is a significant problem on its own!

Despite these known challenges, there are further obstacles being placed across the globe to deter non-compliance of Sulpher, one being that certain geographic zones are taxing you on your emissions. Emissions trading would get a whole lot busier if the shipping industry adopted this practice too!

But if nothing else, all of these issues show that there is a strong emphasis on the reporting of the emissions with it no longer being acceptable to ignore the impact of your vessel. You now need to be far more in control of how your reporting is done so preparing for the imminent roll-out of these regulations is critical.

One of the biggest hurdles to all of this, however, is accurate data recording. Many vessels, particularly older ones, are relying on outdated fuel consumption models to report their emissions data. Not only is this time consuming for the crew, but it is also often inaccurate.

In their quest to comply with the reporting of emissions requirement of ISO 14001, many modern shipping companies are using our Evolution EMS™ emissions monitoring system to monitor their air emissions which is currently considered best practice.

Being the world’s first Type Approved (LR & DNV) on-board NOx, SOx & CO2 emissions monitoring system, Evolution EMS™ provides a range of operational advantages for ship owners, managers and operators.

The reporting activity alone which will follow on from Sulpher 2020 is going to keep ship operators busy but having this done for you automatically and recorded accurately is a powerful starting point.

Once you have an accurate picture of your emissions, you know how close you are to Sulpher 2020 compliance. This also gives you a strong foundation to bargain with if you’re not yet compliant, being able to work out a realistic transition plan with authorities.

Besides sending the message that you are taking your emissions seriously, other advantages to using Evolution EMS™ onboard include:

  • Environmental best practice
  • Cost savings & increased profit
  • Real-time emissions data direct to your desktop
  • Freedom & flexibility
  • Regulation compliance

We also understand the scale of new regulations, and with the global shift towards accountability and sustainability, there’s a strong chance that there’s far more legislative change ahead. That’s why the Evolution EMS™ system has also been designed to be ‘future proof’ against future regulations. By allowing simple ‘plug and play’ analyser inputs, it ensures no additional ship emissions reporting system will ever need to be purchased.

If you’d like advice or further information on Evolution EMS™ for your vessels, or to explore how any of our range can help your safety and regulatory compliance, we’re always here to help so get in touch

Are Your Breathalyser Limits Over Their Limits?

We’re no strangers to the mixed antics of seafaring crew – we’re all human after all whether we have our land or sea legs on, but occasionally you come across something more reminiscent of Pirates of the Caribbean. 

Drunken crew, brawling policemen, stranded ships and banished shipmasters…

We recently read about Valeriy Velychko, a 53-year-old ship master whose alcohol levels were six times the legal limit in charge of his tanker.

His state was reported by the crew and a police officer boarded the ship to find a drunken Velychko at the helm of the 23,600-tonne ship Kohl 1. After resisting arrest, a brawl ensued resulting in Valeriy being taken into police custody. He then tested positive for alcohol with 138mcg of alcohol in 100mls of breath, which equates to more than six times the limit of 25mcg for being in charge of a ship.

Velychko was held in police cells over the weekend before going to court – the intention was for him to be held in custody until his appearance at Teesside Crown Court weeks later, but it was then realised that the ship could potentially be stuck without a skipper in Teesside until his eventual release, which could have been four to six weeks away.

He was therefore granted bail after pleading guilty on the proviso that he return for his sentencing.

Time for a twist…

This is where this story has a slightly strange twist though…

As we’ve outlined, to stop the Kohl 1 being stuck in the UK, the master was needed back on the ship and granted bail, so he then legally took the ship and cargo to its intended destination in Finland.

Despite the prosecution stating that others had been jailed for up to two years for similar offences, Velychko was totally co-operative and intended to return to the UK as promised. 

However, even without the sentence, his drunken behaviour and skirmish were now on his records and because he now has a criminal conviction, he’s not being granted a Visa to allow access to the country for his sentence.

His defence team have been communicating with the authorities to try to find a solution – as a well paid professional master of a ship, he is not intending to further damage his reputation but it’s quite a Catch 22.

His sentencing is currently scheduled for early November, but the only permission he currently has to gain access to the country is the letter from the authorities to attend court. Immigration has refused to give permission using this, so there is a chance that despite him trying to do the right thing, Velychko will walk free.

Whilst the unusual ending to this may not be the norm, the inebriation on board is far from an isolated incident. 

It’s not unusual…

Every year, countless crew members over the limit whilst on duty go unnoticed, putting their own safety as well as that of their fellow seafarers at risk.

We also hear regularly that there is no equipment on board to test alcohol levels, or the equipment isn’t maintained well enough to be reliable.

Not only does this send the message that it’s hard to prove the drunken behaviour exists – which is hardly a deterrent – but it’s sweeping it under the carpet altogether.

There are many maritime policies in place, some which include screening for alcohol and drug use on board but not all are actioned or enforced. It has even been recorded that problems with the supply of suitable breathalysers have resulted in fines not being levied to guilty parties over the limit.

As we know, a significant part of the problem here is equipment availability as reliable breathalysing equipment can be expensive to purchase as well as cumbersome to maintain. 

This makes it even easier for excessive alcohol use to slip through the various loops present in the under-resourced management teams on board many of our ships. The many checks and procedures required to keep a vessel legal – before you even look at crew health and safety measures – is stifling and much of this is overlooked or executed poorly.


One product in our range which offers a solution to this growing problem is the ALCO XS™ 

It is a breathalyser with a difference being the only marine breath alcohol tester available which never requires re-calibration. 

Many conventional breathalysers are extremely wasteful as – by design – if they don’t remain reliable they need completely replacing each year.  The nature of a breathalyser is that it has a specified level of accuracy it must meet to comply with legal standards in place.

The design of the ALCO XS™ has addressed the issues present with existing breathalysers as it doesn’t need sending ashore every year to be calibrated or, as is more often the case, totally replaced. 

All you need to do with the ALCO XS™ is insert the pre-calibrated ALCO XS™ sensor cell every year, which only takes a few seconds to do, and it is ready to use being instantly certified as accurate for a further twelve months.

The simplicity of this model saves you a fortune compared to existing breathalysers and saves a phenomenal amount of time- it really couldn’t be easier.

The added advantage here is the red tape time it’s going to save you. It has been designed specifically to meet the new “Manila Amendments” to the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW). These new standards are being failed by the majority of current breathalysers so we would encourage any crew to test their existing breathalysing kit for compliance with the revised terms.

Now is as good a time as any to check your current breathalysers to see if they have the required level of accuracy to meet these new limits.

If you need any help with your equipment or it’s time to get a new top of the line breathalysing kit, get in touch and we’ll be happy to advise you on the easiest ways to maintain compliance onboard your vessels