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Riviera – News Content Hub – Wall washing is whitewashing tank … – Riviera Maritime Media

L&I Maritime (UK) director Guy Johnson explains what is hampering industry alignment on improved tank cleaning standards
Commercial reluctance and outdated thinking are preventing adoption of tank cleaning techniques that could improve safety, efficiency and sustainability for chemical tankers, says L&I Maritime (UK) director Guy Johnson.
“The wall wash tells us one square metre is clean, but that doesn’t mean the whole tank is clean. You can wash one spot, inspect that spot, and pass inspection. But that’s not a true measure of overall cleanliness,” he says.
“When we developed water analysis, it allowed ships to confirm if the previous cargo has been removed; the reason we wash tanks in the first place, and a reason to call into question the value of traditional wall washing.”
Mr Johnson started to lobby major charterers to accept water analysis instead of wall washing. Companies such as Sasol, ExxonMobil, Dow Chemical, Chevron Phillips and others have come on board, but full industry acceptance remains elusive.
Firms worry water analysis increases contamination risk, but Mr Johnson counters, “for all the charterers and owners I work with, there has not been one cargo claim after loading high-purity chemicals following water analysis. No evidence suggests it is inferior to wall washing.”
Beyond efficiency and emissions, he also highlights safety benefits. Water analysis reduces confined space entry for inspections. Methanex has strict policies limiting tank entry, aligned with the water analysis approach. But others still demand physical inspection.
“Charterers argue wall wash inspection provides reassurance. But Methanex sees entering tanks for ’random sampling’ as conflicting with confined space safety,” Mr Johnson explains, recalling a discussion where a Methanex representative was shocked by the idea crews would need to enter tanks repeatedly for random spot checks during wall wash inspection.
“To Methanex, this clearly conflicts with its stringent policies limiting confined space entry to only critical cases. Yet some charterers still want crews inspecting tanks, despite the risks,” he says, adding he is at a loss to explain exactly why certain customers are hesitant. “We must keep working with owners and charterers to show water analysis improves safety, emissions and performance.” He is also convinced continued pilot projects and commercial pressures will change the chemical shipping status quo.
“If we had Methanex-style policies across the chemical tanker industry it would be refreshing,” he says. “But we must operate in the real world and bring people along pragmatically. Our role is proving water analysis works through real-world experience. And the proof is there. We just need to help the industry catch up.”
Mr Johnson will be leading a session themed A watershed moment: why charterers believe washing-water analysis will displace the wall-wash test at November’s International Tanker Shipping & Trade Conference, Awards & Exhibition in Athens
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