Stricter discharge criteria for open-loop scrubbers have been suggested as part of a European Commission proposal to harmonise regulations governing the sulphur abatement technology.
The submission will be discussed at the 74th meeting of IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) in May. It notes that while scrubbers were an accepted solution for sulphur compliance, “the composition and harmfulness to the marine environment of liquid effluents discharged… lead states to take local or regional restriction or prohibition measures”.
The proposal asks MEPC to define the areas and conditions under which washwater can be discharged into ports and seas. “These measures could entail, but are not limited to, applying stricter discharge criteria or the prohibition of discharges from a particular technology,” says the submission.
The Clean Shipping Alliance (CSA) 2020, a lobby group of shipowners which have installed scrubbers, rejected the proposal. Executive director Ian Adams described it as “an attempt to push forward restrictions on scrubbers, which are accepted globally by the IMO, EU and others as acceptable means of improving air emissions quality in controlled areas”.
Mr Adams said: “CSA 2020 members have been investing for years to prepare their ships in time to meet emissions abatement targets in accordance with existing IMO and EU rules. To see the Commission take this step within months of the entry into force of the global emissions control area is beyond disappointing.”
Niels Bjorn Mortensen, moderating a CSA 2020 technical seminar, reported that the alliance’s recently appointed technical committee would be preparing a response to the European Commission proposal by the 8 March deadline for comments.
CSA 2020 claimed that the European proposal shows an “absence of credible evidence”, instead relying mostly on speculation. It noted the document’s reliance on the interim result of a study to be completed in May by Germany's Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency. CSA described these as “the preliminary results of an incomplete study”, from which conclusions could not yet be drawn.
Exhaust Gas Cleaning Systems Association director Don Gregory noted that despite the European proposal, all IMO member states again endorsed the use of scrubbers as an approved compliance option at last week’s meeting of the Pollution Prevention and Response sub-committee.
Mr Gregory said: “Focusing the debate on whether one means of compliance or the other is bad risks leading to a fragmented approach, with countries taking different positions on scrubber use; precisely the opposite of what the IMO is meant to achieve.”