Pacific Heron

Uson systems take care of waste during prolonged voyages on Pacific Heron

Case Story: Pacific Heron

The nuclear fuel carrier Pacific Heron is one of a fleet of three ships owned by UK based Pacific Nuclear Transport Limited, PNTL, and operated by Serco. To comply with company policy and the ship’s EP class notation, the Pacific Heron is equipped with systems from Uson Marine for handling food waste, galley waste and dry waste. These play an important role onboard as the ship operates between Japan and the UK and follows a route that involves spending 72 days at sea.

Used nuclear fuel from Japan has been shipped to Europe since 1969, with the initial shipments being undertaken on chartered vessels. PNTL was established in 1975 to provide a dedicated, reliable and safe maritime transportation system between Europe and Japan.

Highest INF class

The Pacific Heron and her sister ships, Pacific Egret and Pacific Grebe, are classed by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) at its highest level of INF 3 class. The INF Code regulates shipments by sea of packaged irradiated nuclear fuel, plutonium and high level radioactive wastes.

The ships provide a safe and reliable service with the cargo compartments protected by a double hull configuration together with back-up availability of all essential systems.

Dry waste compacted and landed ashore

Onboard Pacific Heron a convenient Uson chute system is installed to transport dry waste from the waste storage area on deck 5 to the garbage room on deck 3. Dry waste fractions, such as plastic, cardboard and metal cans are separated at source and compacted to reduce their volume in a user-friendly Uson Multi-Chamber Compactor with three chambers. Glass is crushed in a Uson Glass Crusher.

The volume of the waste is reduced by up to 90 percent (depending on the fraction). The compacted fractions are stored for recycling in port. With long periods between port calls it is essential to minimize the amount of storage space required onboard. The volume reductions also reduce landing and disposal costs onshore.

Hygienic handling of food and galley waste

Pacific Heron is also equipped with a Uson Marine food and galley waste handling system. With periods in areas with restrictions to discharge it is essential to have an effective food waste handling system to collect and store the food waste in a hygienic and controlled way. 

The food waste system is a Uson One-Way Macerator System, comprising four local macerator units in the galley and a 4 m3 closed holding tank. The system grinds the food waste to particles less than 25 mm in size and transports it to the closed holding tank. The holding tank offers hygienic, odour-free storage until the food waste can be landed or discharged overboard. It also allows the system to be operated in port and in areas where discharge overboard is not permitted.

A Uson UGS Grease Separator is installed to treat galley grey water from the scuppers and sinks before it is discharged to the grey water tank.

Uson Marine’s scope of supply – main components

Dry waste

  • Chute for general waste, diameter 600 mm
  • UMCC-3 Multi-Chamber Compactor (plastic, cardboard, metal cans)
  • U-80 Glass Crusher

Food and galley waste

  • Food Waste System

– 4 x local macerator units, LMUs
– Closed holding tank, 4 m3
– UGS Grease Separator


Pacific Heron

The Pacific Heron is an INF 3 certified vessel. She was the first of a new generation of PNTL vessels and now has two sister ships, Pacific Egret and Pacific Grebe. The Pacific Heron’s security features enable her to transport MOX fuel and plutonium dioxide.

▪ Shipowner: Pacific Nuclear Transport Limited, PNTL
▪ Ship management: Serco
▪ Type of vessel: Nuclear Fuel Carrier
▪ Flag: United Kingdom (UK)
▪ Built: 2007
▪ Design: Hart, Fenton and Company Limited
▪ Shipyard: Mitsui Engineering and Shipbuilding Ltd., Tamano
▪ Gross tonnage: 6,780
▪ Length: 104 m
▪ Beam: 18 m
▪ Classification: Lloyds Register of Shipping
▪ EP Notation: Yes
▪ Area of operation: Japan to UK


Pacific Nuclear Transport Limited, PNTL

PNTL is the world’s most experienced shipper of nuclear cargoes. Since 1975 it has successfully completed over 170 shipments of used nuclear fuel, vitrified high-level waste, mixed oxide (MOX) fuel and plutonium.

PNTL’s ships have covered more than 5 million miles without a single incident resulting in the release of radioactivity. Over 2,000 casks of nuclear material have been safely transported by PNTL.

PNTL operates as a subsidiary company of International Nuclear Services. Its fleet is managed by Serco, UK. PNTL is owned by International Nuclear Services, Areva and Japanese nuclear companies.