‘Zero Bleach’ onboard


How NORDEN’s procurement manager spared half a million litres of the toxic chemical from the ocean 

When Jesper Brandborg took up a new role inside NORDEN’s Dry Operator division as Chemical Procurement Manager; he was dismayed to discover the amount of the bleach being used onboard vessels that would eventually end up in the ocean. 

“My job is to buy chemicals for the 350 dry bulk vessels we have. Traditionally these are purchased directly by individual operators, so when I joined three years ago it was the first time that chemical purchasing had been centralised, and we were able to see exactly what was being used across the fleet,” says Brandborg.

This amounted to 500,000 litres of bleach per year just on Panamax vessels. The bleach was used to remove black stains left in the cargo hold after transporting coal. 

“It is highly toxic, industrial-strength bleach that comes in 209 litre barrels, and anyone cleaning the hold is provided with chemical protection suits. There are regulations regarding the disposal of bleach into the sea in that it has to be heavily diluted – but even with these in place it will no doubt be damaging to marine life over time.”

Determined to do something about it, Brandborg embarked on ‘Project Zero Bleach’. He was able to convince stakeholders that the bleach could be eliminated in favour of an alkaline-based cleaner, without adding extra cost. The cleaner is sprayed on the surface before being washed down and any residual black stains are then touched up with paint instead.

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 Panamax vessels, but now Brandborg is turning his attention to Handymax and Supramax vessels. He is also looking to ways in which other dangerous chemicals – such as muriatic acid, used to remove limewash – could be replaced. The Zero Bleach project has been entered into the Seatrade award for sustainability in the maritime supply chain.

“We all want a greener profile and to do what we can to protect marine life,” says Brandborg. “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 ocean.”