Poorly designed oily water separators put seafarers at risk

In a special one-off today, Splash is calling all seagoing engineers to take part in an Australian survey looking at the questionable designs of oily water separators.

Gavin Henderson is currently completing a Master of Applied Science (Marine Engineering) with the University of Tasmania. As part of his course, he is carrying out a research project that analyses the performance of oily water separators (OWS) across the maritime industry. The aim of the research is to find out if poorly designed supporting systems are negatively effecting OWS performance. To determine this, Henderson has created a 5-10 minute survey aimed at the people who operate these systems. The survey will provide information that will rank current OWS types against other provided technical data. This information should then reveal ways of improving OWS system design.

“The inspiration behind my research has come from my time spent working as a marine engineer for the last six years. During this time, I’ve experienced a number of OWS systems that were poorly designed, sometimes making them almost unusable. This in turn placed undue pressure on the engineers that operate them. For the majority of these cases, slight changes to the system during installation would have prevented these issues,” Henderson told Splash.

The survey is completely anonymous and no personal information is taken or requested.

“The more industry professionals that take the survey, the more accurate the research will be, which will hopefully lead to less stress for the people that use these systems. Whenever we hear about OWS violations, it’s usually the seafarers that are blamed. The survey has the potential to shed light on what the actual issues are,” Henderson said.

Engineers can take the survey by clicking this link.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. Why would anybody care ? Especially Australian or Canadian Engineers . I might be misinformed , but with all the new cabotage rules , Foreign seafarer exemptions and hoop jumping BS courses it will only be a matter of time before you will all be third world dhobi wallas . I could be wrong , but I have just retired after 45 years as a engineer , from eating in the wardroom in dress from a steward , having my cabin made each day to standing in line with a tray and in coveralls like a convict eating minimum quality victuals and jonesing around for clean sheets etc. Fight all you want but you will eventually be just another 3rd world sailor ( unless you work local ) on some shithole foreign flagged vessel (if you want sea time ). Good Luck Walter

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