Air Quality on board ships

The development of the modern Maritime industry requires continuous improvement of the

  • technical means and solutions
  • safety level of their use
  • environmental protection
  • safety and security of crew life and health

The industry operates under increasing pressure of requirements focused on protection the marine environment, the important components of which are the reduction of emissions pollutants resulting from the use of modern technologies. Strict compliance with international environmental standards is vital for any marine activities.

Owners and operators are facing following challenges:

  • Prioritizing the environmental safety requirements, compliance with the obligatory environmental standards
  • Implementation of preventive measures to protect the environment from transport industry impact and developing a mechanism for compensation for the damage caused
  • Mandatory strategic environmental assessments during the development of plans and development of transportation projects
  • Implementation of the latest technologies in monitoring emission and fuel consumption

Due to the unity of the ship’s working and living conditions, the environmental safety of the ship has direct impact on the safety and health of the crew.

The ship may be the source several types of pollution:

  • petroleum products
  • harmful substances
  • sewage
  • trash
  • harmful emissions into the air

Emissions from ships are controlled by the international MARPOL Convention. In particular, Air pollution from ships is governed by Annex VI of the Convention, which sets restrictions for the emission of , , ozone depleting substances and VOC into the atmosphere. It should be noted that the Convention regulates emissions into the environment, however, pollution of the ship’s premises, as the habitat of the crew, remain outside its jurisdiction.

Besides substances, governed by Annex VI, marine engines and boilers exhaust generate , and Particulate Matter. Tankers and gas carriers in particular often carry hazardous cargo. These harmful substances affect negatively the human health and are able to accumulate in the atmosphere of the ship’s premises due to the cargo vapor and and exhaust infiltration, improper adjustment of the ventilation system, its flaws and failures, improper air recirculation rate, etc.

Flag States and International Conventions (SOLAS, MLC 20006) establish requirements for working conditions and crew accommodation. For example, in Ukraine, shipboard residential and occupational safety conditions are regulated by State Sanitary Rules 7.7.4.-057-2000 and 7.7.4.-057-99. In particular, most of the requirements stated to the microclimate of the ship’s premises: temperature, humidity, air velocity and exchange rate restrictions. However, mentioned sanitary rules do not establish the Air Quality requirements for shipboard atmosphere except air exchange and recirculation rates in order to ensure permissible concentration of the carbon dioxide (CO2). The Ukrainian Shipboard Safety Rules govern the list of harmful factors, which includes the toxicity of substances which the crew may be in contact with, increased dustiness and contamination of the working area, ship decks and workplaces.

According to the Occupational Disease List, transport workers are influenced by chemical, physical and allegory factors. Chemicals factors act both directly in contact with the substance and through inhalation of harmful gases, volatile compounds and solids. The most dangerous is the content of harmful connections in the air of the ship’s premises. Physical contact with hazardous substances usually carried out in workplaces using protective equipment. However, in case of air pollution of the living quarters, the crews becomes unprotected because they do not use protection in the rest areas and does not have any measuring instruments signaled a dangerous level of pollutant content.

Ships which carry explosive cargoes are equipped with gas detectors. However, those gas detectors are calibrated to prevent the possible fire and explosion but not the human exposure.

Currently, there is no single international standard for air quality for ships premises that would take into account the latest research on the effects of polluted air on health the crew. More than that, nowadays there is no internationally accepted standard for Air Quality neither for outdoor nor indoor air.

However, the study of methods for measuring and controlling the quality of indoor air and standard-setting is actively ongoing. In particular, ISO has developed a number of ISO16000-1 standards - ISO16000-38, which regulates methods of measuring air quality parameters. The newest standard ISO / FDI 16000-40 Indoor air quality management system is in a state of confirmation. WHO and countries such as USA, Australia, Germany, Canada, North Korea have developed national Air quality standards. Some industry associations are also involved in developing their standards, f.e. ANSI / ASHRAE Standard 62.1-2016.

The absence of regulatory requirements for the air quality of the ship’s premises allows shipowners and operators to neglect maintaining the cleanliness and safety of the ship atmosphere. In the area of ​​risk are, first of all the crews of ships carrying dangerous cargoes such as chemical tankers and gas tankers.

Researchers Sun-Sook Kim, Yoon-Kyung Kang and others published a comparative study on air quality of the inhabited compartment of a passenger ship and a chemical tanker. The concentrations of the following pollutants were used as air quality parameters: VOC (Volatile Organic Compound), Formaldehyde, Carbon Monoxide, Carbon Dioxide, Sulfur Dioxide and Particulate Matter. Obtained measurements were compared against various national air quality standards. It should be noted that each standard sets its own acceptable content levels pollutant. The authors of the mentioned study discovered that the passenger air quality parameters were in compliance with the standards. However, the air tanker air quality was not satisfactory for all investigated parameters except formaldehyde content. Content of VOC, , , exceeded the permissible level in all investigated premises, sometimes 2 - 3 times.

During the research the measured air quality parameters were compared against the following reference standard levels:

  • TVOC
    • S. Korea : 500
  • Toluene
    • WHO : 260 - 1-week average
    • S. Korea : 1000
  • Benzene
    • S. Korea : 30
  • Ethylbenzene
    • S. Korea : 360 - 1-week average
  • Styrene
    • WHO : 260 - 1-week average
    • S. Korea : 300
  • Xylene
    • S. Korea : 700
  • Formaldehyde
    • WHO : 100 - 30-mins average
    • AHRAE : 100
    • S. Korea : 210
  • CO
    • WHO : 10 ppm - 8-hours average
    • AHRAE : 9 ppm - 8-hours average
    • S. Korea : 10 ppm
    • AHRAE : 1000 ppm
    • S. Korea : 1000 ppm
    • WHO : 50
    • AHRAE : 80 - 1-year average
    • S. Korea : 0.05 ppm
  • Particulate Matter
    • WHO : 120 - 30-mins average
    • AHRAE : 50
    • S. Korea : 150