What to do after phase-out of R-22 refrigerant in maritime industry

Francis Lai, Wilhelmsen Ships Service, shares with Lee Kok Leong, our special correspondent, a global overview of the R-22 situation and the recommended options available to help comply with the phase-out.

Francis Lai, Wilhelmsen Ships Service (WSS), shares with Lee Kok Leong, our special correspondent, a global overview of the R-22 situation and the recommended options available to help comply with the phase-out.
The Montreal Protocol was established in 1987 to protect the ozone layer by controlling, reducing and ultimately eliminating global emissions of Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) such as R-22.
R-22 has been completely phased out in the EU since 1 Jan 2015 and other developed countries are finalising the phase-out as R-22 will no longer be produced or imported after 1 Jan 2020.
However, based on the UNEP Report of the Technology and Economic Assessment Panel in 2016, 70% of the fishing fleets in the world still use R-22 as its main refrigerant.
If you are a ship-owner or manager, or someone who has responsibility for such fleets, this article will provide you the present R-22 situation on a global scale, the timeline and the recommended options available to you when it has phased out.

2015, 1 January

  • Complete phase-out in the EU under the EU “Ozone Regulation” – Regulation (EC) 1005 / 2009
  • Illegal for EU-flagged vessels to use new, recycled and reclaimed R-22 to service air-conditioning and refrigeration systems
  • Remaining R-22 in EU ports still available for export to ships with non-EU flag until 31 December 2019

2020, 1 January

  • Complete phase-out in the Developed Countries (Non-Article 5 Parties)
  • After 1 January, servicing of systems with R-22 will rely on recycled or stockpiled quantities.
  • Key affected countries: Australia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Canada, Holy See, Israel, Japan, Kazakhstan, New Zealand, Russia, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Ukraine, USA and Uzbekistan. The ban is also extended to Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Isle of Man and Taiwan.

2030, 1 January

  • Complete phase-out in the Developing Countries (Article 5 Parties)
  • R-22 will be phased out in the remaining 147 developing countries in 2030
  • WSS will stop supplying R-22 by 2030 in 147 developing countries such as Brazil, Chile, China, Egypt, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Panama, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and more.

Recommended Options for Ship-owners/Operators

1. Total system replacement

This long-term solution will incur high initial cost and additional downtime.
However, installing newer and more efficient systems can result in big reductions in operation and energy expenses. We believe that it is the most environmentally responsible and cost-effective option in the long run.

2. Retrofit the system by replacing R-22

If the system is still in good condition, you may consider retrofitting or converting the system to use alternative refrigerants.
As R-417A is compatible with the mineral oil used in the R-22 system, it is recommended as the cheapest and fastest way to replace R-22, while maintaining reasonable performance and operational capacity.
It is a mid-term solution to keep the system running and free of any ozone-depleting substances.

3. Continue with R-22

If the ship is due for scrap or if the first 2 options are simply not financially viable for you, you may have to continue with the R-22 system.
To prolong the lifespan of the system and minimise environmental impact, ship-owners should maintain the aging system properly to minimise refrigerant leaks. To ensure uninterrupted operation, owners should also keep sufficient R-22 stock for future servicing.
It is important to note that the cost price of R-22 is expected to keep rising due to fall in supply after its phase-out. Furthermore, there is high risk and impact for your business if the system breaks down and you have no R-22 available for servicing.

Availability of R-22 after 2020

New R-22 will not be available in all developed countries (Non-Article 5 parties of the Montreal Protocol) after 2020.
For WSS, existing R-22 stock in countries such as USA, Japan and Taiwan will still be available until end 2019, while stocks last. Similarly, existing stock in the Netherlands will still be available for export to non-EU flagged vessels until the same period. Any unsold R-22 will be transferred out of EU by then.
After 2020, we will also stop the supply of R-22 to ships carrying the flag of Developed Countries. Key affected developed countries include USA, Russia, Japan, Taiwan, Canada, Switzerland, Isle of Man and Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Australia and New Zealand.

Potential Risks

Due to limited supply and rising prices of R-22 in the coming months leading up to 2020, there may be more counterfeit or illegal R-22 surfacing in the market.
Counterfeit refrigerants are dangerous as they can contain banned substances that are toxic and flammable. To avoid potential risks of using a counterfeit or illegal refrigerant, it is important for ship-owners and operators to obtain refrigerants from reliable and reputable sources.


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