With MEPC 74 approaching and maritime interests preparing for a debate on the merits of open-loop scrubbers, a panel of scrubber manufacturers have taken aim at worries the devices’ washwater poses a hazard to the marine environment.
Taking questions during the Sulphur Cap 2020 Conference in Amsterdam, manufacturers flatly denied a suggestion that scrubber washwater could acidify water and harm marine life, such as coral reefs, in the same manner as acid rain.
Clean Shipping Alliance 2020 executive director Iain Adams, who represents a group of shipowners who have invested in scrubber technology, took the lead.
“The reaction in the scrubber tower is such that what is discharged is sulphate, not sulphuric acid,” he said. “It is not the same as when the sulphur oxides are released from a funnel – that is when sulphur reacts with fresh water and creates acid rain.”
Concerns around the safety of washwater has given rise to bans on the open-loop configuration of scrubbers in some ports and coastal areas around the world.
Scrubber manufacturer Andritz’ sales manager Marco Dierico was more direct regarding the potential hazards raised by the question.
“The question is wrong,” he said, noting “IMO is accepting” that scrubbers are part of a transition period and taking measures to ensure it does not “stop the marine industry from carrying goods and passengers”.
In February, the European Union submitted a proposal to IMO for consideration calling for “evaluation and harmonisation” of scrubber discharges across all ports, world-wide. The proposal is intended for consideration at the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee 74th session (MEPC 74) which meets next week, in London.
Mr Adams and others at the Sulphur Cap 2020 conference have referenced the proposal as well as a study from the Japanese delegation – also submitted for review by MEPC 74 – which says open-loop scrubbers can be used without causing damage to the marine environment.
Japan told IMO they believed “prohibition of the use of open-looped scrubbers cannot be justified scientifically when the IMO’s criteria is met”.
MEPC 74 is expected to consider revisions to guidelines concerning the use of scrubbers, or exhaust gas cleaning systems, ahead of the implementation of the IMO-mandated cap on sulphur in fuel in 2020.