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Completely preventing lubricants leaking from a ship into the marine environment is nearly impossible, despite the introduction of new vessel and equipment designs. Even the best run ship with the latest technologies and seals will always face the risk of potentially polluting the water with its lubes. In 2010 Dr Dagmar Schmidt Etkin, president of Environmental Research Consulting, showed just how big the problem is. Her study estimated that 4.6 to 28.6 million litres of lubricating oil from stern tubes is discharged into port waters each year. The impact that this quantity of oil was having on the marine environment immediately drew the attention of ship operators, legislators and the oil industry alike.

The USA has so far been the only jurisdiction to require ship operators to use Environmentally Acceptable Lubricants (EALs). In 2008, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued Vessel General Permit (VGP) legislation focusing mainly on discharges from vessels but also recommending the use of biodegradable lubricants. In 2013 the EPA issued a second VGP that made the use of EALs mandatory. Whether or not other jurisdictions introduce legislation mandating the use of EALs remains to be seen, but the focus on the benefits of these products continues to be strong.

EALs, sometimes erroneously known as ‘bio-lubricants’, must be used in all situations where a lubricant come into direct contact with the ocean. Areas of vessels affected include controllable pitch propellers, stern tubes, rudder and thruster bearings, stabilisers, Azimuth thrusters, propulsion pod lubrication and wire rope and mechanical equipment that are subject to immersion. They must be biodegradable, minimally-toxic, and not bio-accumulative.

Biodegradable – formulations that contain at least 90% of a constituent substance or constituent substances biodegradable to at least 60% within 28 days, according to Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) stipulations.

Minimally toxic - a substance that passes OECD 201, 202, and 203 for acute toxicity testing

Non-bioaccumulative – each formulation component which is non-biodegradable is tested to determine its “non-bioaccumulative” properties.


Total Lubmarine offers a complete range of synthetic ester EALs for use with all marine oil-to-sea equipment interfaces. Its EALs have approval from all stern tube makers, including those using the very latest seal technology.

One specific example is the Bioneptan range of lubricants, which has been particularly recommended by manufacturers for the lubrication of sliding rolling bearings within stern tubes. Offering outstanding viscosimetric performances, the lubricants perform in a wide range of operating temperatures, including especially low temperatures, and have outstanding anti-wear and anti-corrosion properties.

Total Lubmarine’s EALs are developed through our own extensive, in-house R&D that incorporates rigorous testing at all stages of development – this ensures real control of the product cycle and performance. Total’s own worldwide Diagomar Plus lubricant analysis laboratories also conduct tests to verify the effectiveness of the lubricants, which are also subject to extensive independent testing.

Total Lubmarine has been a key player in the EALs field for more than two decades, meaning that customers can be rightfully confident in the company’s experience and knowledge. Regular data is taken and processed from the 865 vessels using Total EALs, which to date have consumed a combined total of two million litres.

With such demand for the EALs, making them readily available is a priority and Total has placed significant stocks close to shipyards, especially in Asia.

All Total Lubmarine EALs are VGP compliant for oil-to-sea interfaces and are also perfectly suited for use with deck equipment including lifting gears, davits, hydraulics, hatch covers, shell doors, side and stern ramps and winches.

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