Being a passenger Ship, the generation of large quantities of waste and garbage is inevitable. To lessen the effects of damage to the environment, a ‘Garbage Management Plan’ has been drawn up, implemented and a ‘Green Culture’ actively promoted on board. Besides ‘ground food waste’, no other form of garbage is permitted to be dumped over the ship’s side, even if it is permissible by law! At the start of our voyages, a public address announcement is made informing passengers of our commitment to the protection of the environment and reminding them that the dumping of any garbage overboard is strictly against our policy and therefore prohibited.
All generated garbage is carefully sorted and separated by Ship’s staff into common receptacles. In the passenger accommodation areas, waste receptacles are combined to reduce confusion this is then separated by ship’s staff for final storage. In crew areas, six colour-coded receptacles are provided for various types of waste. The colour code on the receptacle matches the colour of the bags in which the various types of garbage will be stored. These include receptacles for medical waste, paper & cardboard, glass, metals & tins, aerosols & batteries and food wastes. The garbage is then collected and taken along to larger separated receptacles on the fore deck to be stored until it can be safely landed ashore at a garbage reception facility. These larger storage receptacles are also colour-coded further ensuring that the various types of waste remain segregated.
Medical sharps (i.e. hypodermic needles, swabs and syringes), used in the Ship’s Medical Centre, are carefully stored in approved ‘Sharps Boxes’ and stored until they can be safely landed ashore to a dedicated medical waste disposal facility.
The RMS St. Helena has a modern sewage treatment facility capable of handling waste generated by the nearly 200 passengers and ship’s crew. The waste is received into a brand new sewage tank (installed August 2006), is treated and only the permitted effluent is then pumped overboard while in permitted areas and while being rigorously monitored. Although the toilet cisterns are ‘freshwater flushed’, being a vacuum system the use of valuable fresh water for this purpose is very minimal.
Most of our fresh water is generated from seawater and we fully recognise the importance of conserving the natural resources used in the manufacturing process. Taking this into account, both passengers and crew alike are encouraged to conserve water by turning off taps and showers when not in use. They are further encouraged to conserve water by only putting out towels for laundering when fresh ones are required and by laundering full batches of clothing rather than one garment at a time. Additionally, only approved biodegradable cleaning agents are used, which include toilet cleaners and general cleaning agents.
In compliance with international guidelines for the prevention of oil pollution at sea, the RMS St. Helena has a fully approved and operational ‘Oil Pollution Prevention Plan’. The plan sets out procedures for the handling of marine oil pollutants, the equipment required for handling them and emergency response procedures in the event that there is an accidental spill or discharge.
A comprehensive ‘Oil Pollution Kit’ is provided for containing any possible pollution related accidents that could occur. The Ship’s crew is fully versed in ‘Oil Pollution Emergency Procedures’ and regularly conduct emergency drills to ensure that a constant state of readiness is maintained.
In addition, oily water wastes, including the contents of Engine Room bilges, which cannot be safely pumped overboard, are stored in slop tanks until it can be pumped ashore to a marine waste reception facility.
Oily water wastes, suitable for overboard discharge, is first passed through an ‘Oily Water Separator’ where the oil content is monitored. In the event that the oil content rises above 15ppm, and as an automatic failsafe procedure, the system will immediately shut down, stopping any further overboard discharge.
The RMS St Helena also handles the disposal of waste oil from the islands garages. Waste oil is collected and at regular intervals taken out to the RMS and pumped in to the ships waste oil sludge tank for pumping out at Cape Town with the ships own waste oil to a reception facility which returns it to the local refinery for processing.
The paints used on the underwater sections of the ship are Eco-friendly; in particular they do not contain lead or tin additives. Even our general and multipurpose chemicals are sourced from approved marine brands in a continued effort to protect the delicate marine environment.
Although it may not seem so, even some of our navigational procedures are executed with the protection of the environment in mind. When arriving at the South Atlantic Islands of St. Helena and Ascension we attempt to anchor as near to the same location as always in a bid to cause as little damage and disturbance as possible to the seabed.
Around these islands there are numerous wrecks and habitats, and apart from their historical and economic (tourism) value, they are in fact, home to various marine creatures and ecosystems. Even the ship’s voyage schedule has now been changed to reduce consumption of precious hydrocarbon fuels. In some cases the voyage length has been extended making it sometimes possible for the vessel to run on one main engine rather than two and to reduce the need for running both the main diesel generators and the main engines simultaneously.
In recent months and years the cost and consumption of hydrocarbon fuels have steadily increased globally. More and more of these precious resources are being extracted from their natural reserves every year. We believe that every drop we save today can only be a good thing, regardless how little it seems in the global scheme of things. On a daily basis and in association with the UK Met Office we collect, collate and report meteorological data that is then used for forecasting weather patterns and to predict and monitor global climate changes. This is particularly useful to our navigation as, from these forecasts we can prepare for or avoid dangerous weather conditions, which could cause damage to the vessel or her cargo; therefore reducing the risk of possible environmental pollution incidents.
Indirectly, the data collected could also help scientists track changes in global climate trends, which will inevitably effect the natural environment, enabling them to prepare contingency plans for predicted global disasters. This vital information may also enable scientists to understand and combat the disastrous effects of the phenomenon known as global warming.
All cargoes loaded onto the RMS St. Helena are stowed according to the recommended stowage guidelines as detailed in the ‘Ship’s Cargo Stowage Manual’ and the ‘International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code’. This is of vital importance in ensuring that the cargo is suitably lashed and stowed to prevent the risk of a pollution incident developing during the three phases of handling namely loading, transit and discharge. In addition to international requirements, local importation rules are also observed and particularly where fresh fruits, vegetables, meat products and livestock are concerned.
The island of St. Helena has very stringent rules regarding the importation of these products. These rules have been put into effect to protect the island’s numerously delicate ecosystems and its small population, including the local economy. The introduction of harmful pests and diseases could spell disaster, and so we too take our share of the responsibility to reduce these risks to the lowest possible levels. Prohibited and regulated cargoes are only shipped if all the necessary documentation is in order.
Cargoes that have been banned by the island’s authorities, for example meat products regular livestock and exotic animals, which may or may not be infected with certain viruses (i.e. BSE, Avian Flu or Foot & Mouth), are not permitted ashore. Both passengers and crew are kept well informed of any banning orders or regulations currently in force. Even the cargo holds are first swept of debris, and hold bilge units are thoroughly cleaned before being washed, in an effort to reduce the likelihood of possible pollutants being pumped overboard.
Ballast Water Management The transportation of aquatic species to other area where they are not indigenous is a matter that currently being addressed by the International Maritime Organisation and legislation to manage the discharge of Ballast Water will soon be passed. Meanwhile the RMS St Helena does its best not to discharge clean salt water ballast in areas where it did not originate.
Many of the above processes within the RMS St Helena are subject to a legal requirement to keep log book records to show that we have observed all of the legal requirements. Equipment such as Oily Water Separators are subject to testing by Government Agencies of countries the ship visits as well as all our Environmental Records.