Some companies and individuals in the workboat industry will tell you the last thing they want is more regulations or restrictions. They point to government regulations governing air emissions, overboard discharges and safety as examples of unnecessary encumbrances on their operations.
At the same time, there is a group of new voluntary standards that are gaining traction among workboat operators. These are generated by the industry, not government agencies, and are overseen by classification societies such as American Bureau of Shipping and Lloyd’s Register. The primary emphasis is environmental.
Green Passport is the one you hear about the most. Green Passport certification means you keep a detailed inventory of the type, amount, and location of hazardous materials used in building and operating a boat.
The idea is to promote safe working conditions for the boat’s crew, protect the marine environment and make the recycling of a boat environmentally safe.
“Why did we go with the Green Passport?” responded Susan Hayman of Foss Maritime, Seattle. “We thought it was the responsible thing to do environmentally. The Green Passport is the birth certificate of the boat.”
She noted that the Green Passport file has to be updated every five years. If you change something, whether it’s a steering gear or a stateroom, that has to be documented as well.
Foss’s first boat certified with the Green Passport was the hybrid tug Carolyn Dorothy in 2008. “In the building phase, everything was documented in the boat. So when it gets recycled, people doing it know exactly what they are getting into,” she said.
Crowley Maritime, Jacksonville, Fla., first had a boat certified for the Green Passport in 2006. That was an ATB. Now, all new ATBs as well as the company’s Ocean Class tugs are all being certified for Green Passport.
“It shows a commitment to the environment,” said Crowley Maritime’s Vic Goldberg. “It’s a good way to certify the materials used and what ones are hazardous. And you have to pay particular attention to those when disposing of the unit.”
The Green Passport program isn’t free. Goldberg didn’t have a figure available, and Hayman said the cost was “in the thousands of dollars versus hundreds.”
Don’t look for an immediate financial benefit to having Green Passport certification. The driver really does appear to be recognition of environmental responsibility. However, Goldberg noted that the Green Passport does confirm to Crowley’s clients “that we are cognizant of what the units are built with and are comfortable with that construction.” So there can be marketing advantages.
Down the line, Goldberg also anticipates a benefit when selling the boat. Recently Crowley Maritime sold some of its older boats to foreign owners. “There were a number of agencies involved that wanted to make sure we weren’t shipping hazardous materials overseas,” Goldberg said.
The boats didn’t have Green Passports and documenting that hazardous materials weren’t present was an expensive process. This would have been avoided if the boats had been Green Passport certified.
Theoretically, a Green Passport can be obtained both for boats being built and existing boats. But practically speaking, both Hayman and Goldberg don’t think it makes sense to try and obtain a Green Passport for an existing boat.
“It’s hard to go back for an existing boat and figure out all the components that went into it,” Hayman said, adding that Foss Maritime will have all its new boats certified for Green Passports but won’t do it for existing boats.
“The best time for a Green Passport is with the initial construction,” Goldberg said. “It’s very difficult to go back and try to recreate it. Shipyards come and go, and records are difficult to obtain.”
At Harvey GulfInternational Marine, New Orleans, green certification is being stepped up a couple of notches beyond the Green Passport level. In October, Harvey Gulf launched the Harvey Supporter, the first of six 300'×64' diesel-electric offshore support vessels under construction at Eastern Shipbuilding Group, Panama City, Fla.
It’s the first boat built in this country to the ABS notation Enviro Plus. It also carries a Green Passport notation. The basic difference between Enviro Plus and Green Passport is that the Green Passport focuses on the inventory of hazardous waste materials while “Enviro notations include standards for a host of environmental factors such as emissions and ballast water,” said ABS’s Jennifer Bewley. Like the Green Passport certification, Enviro Plus is an industry standard and voluntary.
Harvey Gulf’s compliance with Enviro Plus means meeting a long list of criteria that includes a trained environmental officer onboard at all times; boats outfitted with IMO-approved sewerage systems for both gray and black water; a bridge layout that complies with the technologically advanced and safer electronics packages required under ABS NBLES notation; no fuel oil stored against the skin of the vessel and all fuel tanks with high-level alarms; and the anti-fouling hull coatings will be biocide free.
Adhering to both Enviro Plus and Green Passport standards can be expensive. Shane Guidry, Harvey Gulf’s chairman and CEO, said it costs about $4 million more per boat. "When you make the decision to spend $300 to $400 million at a time, you might as well spend $20 to $30 million additional and go the extra distance.”
Going the “extra distance” for Guidry means his company will be ahead of the curve when, he said, the government moves a lot of green initiatives from land to offshore.
“Being ahead of my competitors and being ahead of what the law says for me to do shows a commitment to my clients — well in advance of what everyone else is doing. It’s definite that oil companies want to align with companies that are committing funds to meet government standards way ahead of target dates,” he said.
Guidry doesn’t see an immediate return to investing in the green programs, but then again, he doesn’t expect one. “Companies that only worry about returns today, tomorrow, they can’t see way down the road. You have to look way out if you want to be successful in this business.”
Now that Guidry is building boats to Enviro Plus standards, he expects others will follow. “In the boat business, it’s monkey see, monkey do. You can bet somebody else real soon will build boats to Enviro Plus and Green Passport standards. It will be one of the bigger companies. They just have to. They are not going to let me stand out there all alone. Though I wish they would.”