Why are Environmentally Friendly Lubes Important for Vessels?
There have been a lot of questions regarding Marine vessel lubricants and the VGP regulations on them, so we thought it would be a good idea to lay out some of the fundamentals on the topic. The VGP regulations on vessels requires that vessel operators replace conventional lubricants with environmentally friendly options whenever possible.
The concern isn't so much spills as normal amounts of lubricants lost in vessel operation, such as from stern tubes. A 2011 study by the European Commission DG Joint Research Centre actually found that routine operational lubricant discharge created more pollution in the Mediterranean Sea than accidental spills did. That's pretty significant!
By using more environmentally friendly products, operators can minimize damage to the environment while still meeting lubrication needs.
Key issues are if a product is biodegradeable - either readily or inherently, whether its toxic to the aquatic environment, and how much bioaccumulation compounds in the product cause (how much it will build up in living tissue over time). For example, conventional petroleum based lubricants have the potential to bioaccumulate, don't biodegrade well, and can be highly toxic to the aquatic environment. In contrast, PAG, synthetic ester, and vegetable oil based Environmentally friendly lubricants biodegrade readily, have low toxicity to the aquatic environment, and do not bioaccumulate. So in that context, it makes a lot of sense to switch as much vessel lubrication as possible away from conventional lubes.
In future posts we'll get more in depth on what different products meet VGP requirements, as well as what different parts of the regulation mean to different businesses and vessel types.