Pakistan’s largest port, the Port of Karachi, is banning use of open-loop scrubbers, and Bahrain has announced tighter restrictions
The Port of Karachi in Pakistan has joined the list of ports effecting a ban on discharge of wash water from open-loop scrubbers.
A circular (No. 001/2020) issued by Pakistan’s Ministry of Maritime Affairs’ Ports & Shipping Wing and posted by UK insurer Standard Club to notify its members said “the discharge of washwater from open-loop scrubbers is prohibited in port. While in the port, vessels fitted with hybrid type of scrubbers should switch to the closed-loop mode of operations. As for vessels fitted with open-loop scrubbers, they would need to switch over to compliant fuel instead.”
Vessels are advised to carry out necessary changes in fuel or scrubber configurations before entering the port of Karachi with the intent being to ensure operational issues are identified and dealt with before vessels arrive in Pakistani waters.
The Kingdom of Bahrain has also announced tightened restrictions on the discharge of wash water from exhaust gas cleaning systems (EGCS).
The Bahraini Ministry of Transportation and Telecommunications issued a marine notice (PMA/03/2019) dated 31 December, 2019, which Standard Club reported to members on 20 January.
"Discharging of washwater from open loop mode EGC systems (Scrubber) is prohibited when ship is within limit of port of Bahrain including the anchorage area," the notice said, continuing that "discharging of washwater from open loop mode EGC systems (Scrubber) into Bahraini territorial waters and exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is not permitted unless it can be proved that the discharge of washwater complie[s] with the IMO 2015
guidelines for exhaust gas cleaning systems (MEPC.259(68)) and there is no negative impact on marine ecosystems."
The two countries are among the latest to join a growing list of those whose ports have banned discharge of wash water from open-loop scrubbers. Singapore and Malaysia have already banned the use of open-loop scrubbers in port.
Also in January, the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) has clarified its position on the use of open loop scrubbers, prohibiting their use for ships transiting the Suez Canal.
Egypt is yet to ratify Marpol Annex VI, which means that the 0.5% sulphur limit set out by IMO is not currently being enforced in Egyptian waters.
In a circular (No. 08/2019), the Suez Canal Authority initially said that it puts no conditions on fuel oil or open-loop scrubbers until Egypt ratifies Marpol Annex VI. However, the SCA issued a follow-up notice clarifying its position, that the discharge of washwater from EGCS is forbidden for ships transiting the Suez Canal under any circumstances.
As a Standard Club notice explained, "It is now clear that vessels should turn off their open loop scrubbers when transiting the Suez Canal in order to avoid any environmental fines. We understand that the Egyptian Government is currently in the process of ratifying MARPOL Annex VI, although it is unclear when exactly this will happen."
In late November, Malaysia enacted a ban on open-loop wash water discharge in its territorial waters, extending to 12 nautical miles from its coast.
In the major bunkering ports of Fujairah and Singapore and much of China’s domestic emissions control area waters (DECAs), discharge from open-loop scrubbers is currently banned. Belgium and Latvia, too, have bans in place and Germany has a partial ban along sections of the Rhine River. Ireland has discharge bans in place in some ports and Norway prohibits wash water release in its protected fjords. Australia and Indonesia are both reportedly considering bans.
Open-loop scrubbers have faced criticisms over the potential threat they may pose to marine ecosystems.
Open-loop scrubbers, the most commonly used exhaust gas treatment system, discharge emissions residue into the sea. Closed-loop scrubbers collect exhaust residues and store the mixture on board for later discharge.
The European Union and others have submitted their concerns about the environmental impacts of open-loop scrubber systems’ wash water discharge to IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) for consideration. At its last meeting in May 2019, IMO’s MEPC backed an EU proposal to "evaluate and harmonise the development of rules and guidance on the discharge of liquid effluents from exhaust gas cleaning systems, including conditions and areas".
The committee agreed that the proposal will be developed further in IMO’s pollution prevention and response (PPR) technical subcommittee.
There is an industry-backed dispute of claims that scrubber wash water poses a threat to marine ecosystems. Following Malaysia’s decision to ban open-loop scrubber discharge in its waters, scrubber lobby group Clean Shipping Alliance (CSA) expressed its disagreement, making note that open-loop scrubbers are an accepted means of compliance with IMO’s global sulphur limits.
“We are disappointed in this announcement,” said CSA 2020 Chairman Capt. Mike Kaczmarek. “The decision will impact not only our member shipping companies, but over 200 other international shipping companies that have announced their intent to install scrubbers as an accepted means of compliance under MARPOL Annex VI."
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