With the IMO 2020 deadline fast approaching, maritime insurance provider Gard has highlighted some of the recent scrubber-related claims it has handled.

Gard estimates that nearly 3,000 vessels will have scrubbers installed by 2020. For the majority of owners and their crew members, scrubber systems are new technology and, as with any new system, teething problems can be expected.

Scrubber installation requires extensive welding and “hot” work to facilitate the extension of the funnel area and attaching the scrubber tower to the vessel’s structure.

Gard has seen a few fire incidents where sparks from welding, metal cutting, and other hot work activities fell into the inner chamber of the scrubber through uncovered openings, and in one case the fire also spread to the engine room through glass-reinforced epoxy (GRE) piping. Heat generated from the steel cutting for the supporting brackets, also contributed to the build up of heat inside the scrubber. In all these cases the yard fire fighting team responded and extinguished the fire with vital assistance from crew.

Fire risks can be mitigated if hot work safety procedures are followed, said Gard. The risk assessments carried out prior to the work should cover which parts of the scrubbers are flammable. These should be protected during the hot work by covering any openings to prevent sparks from finding their way to these parts. Measures should also be put in place to prevent transfer of any heat generated during metal cutting, welding, grinding, and other hot work activities.

Other scrubber-related claims have related to corrosion. Gard explained: “Scrubber waste is corrosive, and we have seen a few incidents where within 10-15 months of the open loop scrubber being installed, corrosion of overboard distance piece or in its immediate vicinity has resulted in water ingress into areas such as the engine room, ballast tanks and cargo holds.

“Absence of or poor application of protective coatings on the inside of the pipe and at the welds, along with poor application of paint on hull plating near the wash water discharge were identified as the causes of accelerated corrosion.”

Gard concluded: “In time, managers, their crew, and the manufacturers will gain more experience in such matters and the frequency of such incidents will decrease. Until that time, it is important for the industry to share the lessons learned from scrubber related breakdowns to benefit the industry overall.”