14 Mar 2024
by Matt Lamy

A career of merit: IMarEST Fellow receives prestigious award

We speak to Andy Wright about his career and what led to him recently receiving the US Coast Guard’s Meritorious Public Service medal.

On 23rd February 2024, at a side event to the 11th Session of the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR), IMarEST Fellow Andy Wright was awarded with the US Coast Guard’s Meritorious Public Service medal, the organisation’s second-highest award.

The presentation was due recognition for a career that has been – and continues to be – dedicated to improving the science and understanding of the marine industry’s fuel oils and the resulting exhaust emissions. Over the course of more than five decades, Andy has become one of the leading experts in his field, but it all started on ships.

“I began my career as an engineer cadet with Shell Tankers in 1970. At that time, you did two years at college, a year at sea, and then a final year at college,” Andy recalls.

“So, in 1974, I became an engineering officer with Shell Tankers but by 1978 the fleet, largely a steam fleet, was downsizing following the effects of the oil crises of the 1970s.”

From university to the field

Following a degree in mechanical engineering and the consideration to join the Coal Board (what a different outcome that would have been he muses!), Andy landed a role at Lloyd’s Register as an engineer surveyor.

“After a year at Lloyd’s Register, I was transferred to a new service that Lloyd’s was starting on fuel testing: the fuel oil bunker analysis and advisory service or FOBAS. That was very much groundbreaking at the time in 1982,” Andy states.

In 2007, he rejoined Lloyd’s Register Advisory Service on a retained basis, and is currently assigned to their Maritime Performance Services, supporting a wide range of fuel and exhaust emissions-related activities.

“One of the things I’ve been doing over the last few years is managing fuel emission trials for clients, particularly assessing the effects of fatty acid methyl ester-based biofuels on nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions. We don’t physically do the testing ourselves, but we set out what they need to do to conduct an emission trial.

“Then they send the data back to us, we process it for them, and then we issue a report with the outcome,” Andy says. “Related to this, I still at times get to visit ships, or rather their engine rooms, for more of the direct experience, even on occasions sailing with them for short periods.”

Work at the IMO

“Since the 1990s, I’ve been heavily involved in one way or another in the various IMO bodies dealing with the initial development and subsequent revision of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) treaty (Annex VI) and the associated guidelines and guidance,” Andy reveals.

“From the exhaust emission work that I have actually done, along with the book I wrote (Exhaust Emissions from Combustion Machinery), I have perhaps a unique insight into this area. I have the experience of being both a marine engineer, doing exhaust emission measurement work, and creating and deploying a lot of the equipment used for that. And I understand the calculations that go along with it.”

For the last 10 years, Andy has represented IMarEST at the IMO and is a very active, and vocal, contributor to the work of Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) and the Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR) Sub-Committee.

“While my book and my involvement with MARPOL Annex VI have been major parts of my history, so too have been the many submissions I have put into MEPC or PPR on various fuel and exhaust emission-related matters,” Andy says.

“For example, when it comes to the replacement of engines, it was our suggestion that this should be a reportable action to IMO where an engine has been accepted at a lower NOx certification level because a fully rated tier III engine couldn’t be accommodated on the ship for some reason.

“That is given an exemption by the flag state to operate in other people’s waters but I made the point that for transparency it should be reported to the IMO and that is due for adoption at the upcoming MEPC meeting.”

Much of the work associated with Andy’s IMO duties is done in his own time. However, it does not go unnoticed and results in honours such as that recently bestowed upon him by the US Coast Guard, although that was something of a surprise.

“The US delegation reserves a side room in the IMO building for their own internal discussions and I was invited along to this. I thought it was to do with taking the NOx Technical Code forward, which is one of the jobs we do have to do. But then it turned out that Captain Butwid, their head of delegation, was making a presentation to me!” Andy recalls.

A great honour at the right time

One of the best aspects of the Meritorious Public Service award, Andy thinks, is that it has been presented not on retirement but while he is very much still working and looking to the next steps in emissions control and reduction.

“The work that I and others have just introduced – the application of a rational control strategy and a not-to-exceed approach – is going to be a significant step forward. There is quite a concern within the IMO as to the performance of the NOx certification, particularly with the tier III, highest controlled engines, which largely look to external NOx-reducing devices to perform,” Andy says.

“Another part going forward is that we are going to have to establish better knowledge of what the methane and nitrous oxide emissions are from in-service marine diesel engines. We have very limited, or hardly any generally available information, about what these levels of emissions are or the real-world factors which drive them.

“And while there is much focus on ammonia, hydrogen or methanol fuels, these are system-dedicated fuels. Where there is going to be quite a bit of activity in the years to come is with drop-in fuels: fuels of non-petroleum origin that can be used in existing engines without adjustment.”

Which leads to us to our final question: almost 55 years after he first joined IMarEST, what still drives Andy to continue?

“There’s a certain amount of professional pride but I suppose it’s also about parental responsibility, in that you want your children, the Annex VI itself, the NOx Technical Code and all the various associated guidelines, to grow up strong and healthy!

“In this area, it could be seen that IMarEST has a big effect on a small part of a very big picture, and I feel I am uniquely placed, and pleased, to contribute to that.”


Main image: Andy Wright is presented with the Meritorious Public Service medal; credit: IMarEST