World­wide ban on dis­pos­able cylin­ders needed to dis­cour­age fakes

DEMM Engineering & Manufacturing - - COUNTERFEIT -

Dis­pos­able cylin­ders rep­re­sent a sig­nif­i­cant risk to port work­ers and sup­port a black mar­ket in coun­ter­feit re­frig­er­ants.

In 2011, sev­eral re­frig­er­ated, reefer con­tain­ers ex­ploded, killing three port work­ers. While there has been no fur­ther tragedies since then, coun­ter­feit re­frig­er­ants re­main in cir­cu­la­tion and still rep­re­sent a sig­nif­i­cant safety risk.

Coun­ter­feit re­frig­er­ant cylin­ders typ­i­cally con­sist of a dan­ger­ously un­sta­ble cock­tail of gases, blended to roughly mimic the most com­mon re­frig­er­ant, R-134a. Th­ese cylin­ders are of­ten loaded with rogue gases such as R-40. Though sim­i­lar to R-134a, R-40 re­acts with alu­minium to form trimethy­la­lu­minum, a highly volatile sub­stance that, when ex­posed to air, can ex­plode. At best, th­ese fake re­frig­er­ants per­form poorly, are en­er­gyin­ef­fi­cient and are likely to dam­age hoses, seals and com­pres­sors. At worse, they are highly toxic, and in the case of the fa­tal ac­ci­dents in Viet­nam, China and Brazil in 2011, highly volatile.

Ac­cord­ing to in­ter­na­tional in­surer TT Club, R-40 con­tam­i­na­tion ac­counts for 0.2 per­cent of the world’s reefer con­tainer fleet, af­fect­ing about 2,500 reefers. How­ever, other coun­ter­feit re­frig­er­ant mix­tures, such as those con­tain­ing R-50, R-744, R-22 or R-170, are also con­sid­ered un­safe, so the num­ber of reefers af­fected could be far higher. pre­cau­tions, such as holo­graphic seals or cylin­der stamps, are eas­ily copied in days rather than months. For Ja­cob­sen, the only way to put an end to this il­le­gal and dan­ger­ous mar­ket is to ban dis­pos­able cylin­ders.

“If the le­git­i­mate re­frig­er­ant sup­pli­ers no longer pro­vided re­frig­er­ants in dis­pos­able cylin­ders, the counterfeiters would be out of busi­ness,” he says, not­ing that WSS does not of­fer re­frig­er­ants in dis­pos­able cylin­ders. “We don’t sup­port their use and we be­lieve a world­wide ban is far over­due.”

Whether or not a global ban on dis­pos­able cylin­ders will come into force any­time soon is un­clear. In 2007, the Euro­pean Union (EU) banned dis­pos­able re­frig­er­ant cylin­ders in the EU and on EU flagged ves­sels. Sim­i­lar bans are also in place in Canada, In­dia and Aus­tralia. How­ever, dis­pos­able re­frig­er­ant cylin­ders are still in use else­where in the world. More re­cently new EU leg­is­la­tion, in­tro­duced in Jan­uary of this year, may only ex­ac­er­bate the is­sue. The new EU reg­u­la­tion ap­plies to the use of hy­droflu­o­ro­car­bon (HFC) R-134a. HFCs are flu­o­ri­nated green­house gases (f-gases) with a rel­a­tively high Global Warm­ing Po­ten­tial (GWP). So while R134-a is an ozone­friendly, chlo­rine-free, en­ergy-ef­fi­cient, low tox­i­c­ity re­frig­er­ant, its use ac­cel­er­ates cli­mate change. The EU reg­u­la­tion (EC517/2014) calls for the to­tal sup­ply of HFCs across the EU to be re­duced to just 63 per­cent of the 2009-2012 base­line quan­tity by 2018, mea­sured as the to­tal tonnes of car­bon diox­ide equiv­a­lent (CO2e). This sus­tained re­duc­tion in ca­pac­ity will con­tinue un­til it reaches just 21 per­cent of the orig­i­nal base­line fig­ure by 2030.

Ja­cob­sen ap­plauds the EU’s move but says the new reg­u­la­tions may in­ad­ver­tently cre­ate a strong mar­ket for sup­pli­ers of coun­ter­feit re­frig­er­ants. “It is likely that the re­duc­tion in the sup­ply of EU HFCs will lead to short­ages and a sharp spike in costs, mean­ing some op­er­a­tors will be tempted to pur­chase lower-price re­frig­er­ants,” he says. “This reg­u­la­tory change will cre­ate an ideal mar­ket for counterfeiters. De­spite nu­mer­ous warn­ings, ac­ci­dents and fa­tal­i­ties, many op­er­a­tors will be more will­ing to take a chance on gases pack­aged in dis­pos­able cylin­ders by un­reg­is­tered sup­pli­ers. We an­tic­i­pate that the counterfeiters of R-134a are go­ing to be very busy in the years ahead.”

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