world earth day special feature – Clean must be green – how procurement is cleaning up at norden

NORDEN is highly committed to its sustainability agenda and has put this at the heart of its business strategy, this article looks at one of their latest initiatives – Project Zero Bleach

From IMPA’s perspective NORDEN have long been a case study for ‘how- to do-good CSR’, they were founding partners in the association’s IMPA ACT programme and have been intimately involved with it ever since, they

have played a role in the development of MACN, the maritime anti-corruption network heralded for making major change in the industry and they have invested
in education and communication for the advancement of CSR as a sound business philosophy. In essence, they ‘walk the talk’ when it comes to corporate responsibility.

Having said this, there’s still a lot for shipping companies and their suppliers to do and IMPA is as many will know, sits right in the heart of it! It’s for that reason that increasingly organisations are approaching IMPA to share initiatives, ideas and thoughts around what can be done and importantly what is being done currently to improve environmental footprints and CSR impacts.

A great case in point was when I talked to Jesper Brandborg at NORDEN early in April this year. I was mightily impressed with his work in his dedicated field of chemicals. Jesper, who will be well known to many readers is the Chemical Procurement Manager inside NORDEN’s dry operator division. When Jesper first took over the newly created role in the business, he was pretty dismayed to discover the amount
of bleach that was being used through the cleaning process that eventually ended up in the ocean. His response? To do something about it!

500,000 litres of bleach going into the ocean and that must surely have an impact on marine life at some point down the line

Just to set the scene here Jesper’s principal job is to buy chemicals for the 350 dry bulk vessels operated by the company, having been in the chemical business for some years previously in both sales and buying roles he is a specialist in the field and certainly very knowledgeable about the issues involved.

Traditionally chemical buying would be undertaken by the individual operators but with his appointment this was changed to a centralised point. He points out that critically this enabled the company to see exactly what was being purchased across the fleet.

After discharge of coal / Applying the Alkaline based cleaner

He explains to me that 350 dry bulk vessels represents a lot of different ships…with a lot of different holds… with consequentially, a lot of cleaning to be done after each cargo drop.

He first looked at the Panamax fleet and the larger ships in the fleet can have up to seven holds and are mainly used for transporting coal, as you can well imagine coal leaves its mark on the fabric of the hold and this needs to be cleaned to a high standard each and every time. Alkaline cleaners with foaming effect is the chemical of choice in this cleaning process.

To supplement stubborn coal stains, Bleach is used and it is supplied at an industrial strength for this purpose in 210 litre tubs. Jesper’s calculation put an annual consumption at a whopping 500,000 litres of bleach. This is highly toxic material and the crew that are cleaning these tanks usually over several days of the journey are heavily protected with chemical protection suits but even so to my layman’s mind it doesn’t sound like a very nice thing for anyone to be doing.

The critical thing about this story is that current regulations allow for the bleach to be immersed into the sea after use on the provision that it is sufficiently diluted. The exact dilution level matters little because however you look at it that’s 500,000 litres of bleach going into the ocean and that must surely have an impact on marine life at some point down the line.

This was Jesper’s view at least and also one shared by NORDEN when they gave him the green light to find a solution and an alternative. Determined to make this work Jesper embarked on what internally was called ‘Project Zero Bleach’.

The company researched and tested a slight increase in the quantity of alkaline based cleaners as a way to eliminate bleach.

So far the ‘zero bleach’ project has been rolled out across ALL Panamax vessels, but now Jesper is turning his attention to Handymax and Supramax vessels

This works by spraying the surface and leaving for half an hour or so before wash down removal, it leaves a sludge at the bottom that can be removed and cleans the tank walls to a high standard, if there was any left-over residual black stains these are then painted = success!

Embarking on this programme took time and effort to convince other stakeholders in and around NORDEN that it was possible to achieve. Jesper needed to employ his procurement skills to ensure that the costs of purchasing the replacement Alkaline solution was not going to be a huge cost burden to the business and he was determined to prove that the more expensive replacement chemical could be bought in the quantities required to achieve the desired result – he made it work!

Last year, this one small action saved 500,000 litres of bleach from being disposed of into the sea. So far the ‘zero bleach’ project has been rolled out across ALL Panamax vessels, but now Jesper is turning his attention to Handymax and Supramax vessels. Not content with this he is also looking to ways in which other dangerous chemicals – such as muriatic acid, used to remove limewash – could also be replaced.

Jesper is a great IMPA case study for how procurement people have a growing role to play in the shipping business and particularly in contributing to sustainability of the business. By purchasing environmentally safer products and by looking at new and creative ways of doing things procurement people can make change, this often means getting to know the suppliers products intimately and working with multiple stakeholders to gain support and buy-in. We all know this isnt always easy and you will meet resistance but if you can be brave enough to do this then the rewards are long lasting – Jesper can testify to this..

Applying the Alkaline based cleaner / The Alkaline based cleaner foams white and is left for around 30 minutes / The freshly cleaned hold

“We all want a greener profile and to do what we can to protect marine life,” “I believe that the regulations regarding chemical use on vessels need to get much tighter, but in the meantime I have an opportunity do something here to stop these pollutants from ending up in the sea.”

Jesper gets my award for ‘hero of the month’ and I hope others will be inspired by his efforts. I look forward to watching his further progress at NORDEN over coming months. Thank you Jesper.