Shipping industry representatives have taken issue with what they described as the ‘politics’ they say are driving some shipping-focused environmental regulatory moves within EU countries.
In a seminar about IMO’s global cap on sulphur in fuel held at the UK Chamber of Shipping offices in London, discussion around scrubbers provoked probing questions about whether European ports would ban the use of 'open-loop' scrubbers.
With scrubber manufacturers reporting that a majority of shipowners have opted to install open-loop systems on their vessels, one question focused on worries over regulations in Belgium and Germany that ban the systems because they discharge the seawater used to remove sulphur and particulate matter from ships' engine emissions back into the sea.
DFDS shipping’s head of environment and sustainability Poul Woodall answered succinctly.
“That’s two countries. Belgium has a law from the mid-1970s banning any discharge within a 3-mile zone (from shore). It’s nothing to do with scrubbers or exhaust gas systems or anything like that. It’s a very old law,” he said.
“The rest of Europe has the water framework directive, which operates up to a mile from the coast. Countries interpret that differently.”
Mr Woodall said he believed regulatory attitudes were becoming more favourable toward open-loop scrubbers in Europe as a whole.
"What we have seen is actually more ports are opening up for open-loop... I actually think there is an opening up of the allowance." he said.
The questioner asked if Mr Woodall thought open-loop scrubbers would still be allowed in European ports in the near future. Mr Woodall said decisions on the matter were being made on the basis of political opinion.
“It’s politics, rather than logic. We can prove collectively that we are within the (water quality) limits that have been decided,” he said.
Carnival’s vice president of marine technology Chris Millman supported Mr Woodall’s assertion.
“In our experience, there are only a relatively limited number of ports that have pushed back (against open-loop scrubbers), predominantly in Europe,” he said.
“But that’s only about 10% or 15% of the ports we have called at in Europe. And, again, like Poul says, we are very confident in the results of our analyses. And the facts and the scientific basis of what we have been doing with all of these washwater studies show that we meet all of the regulatory requirements.”
Claiming the test results for scrubber washwater on Carnival ships compares “favourably with EU drinking water standards”, Mr Millman said “the facts support the case for open-loop scrubbers, and we believe that will carry the weight of the day barring political intervention”.
Later, opening a panel discussion with other scrubber manufacturers, Yara Marine Technologies head of sales and marketing Kai Låtun said he had it on good authority that recent legislation to eliminate emissions in Norway’s UNESCO-designated fjords would be overturned.
“In Norway, they have decided to only allow zero-emission vessels in the so-called ‘Heritage Fjords’ from 2026 … which is impossible,” he said of the likelihood of reaching the target.
“I have it from several sources that that decision made in the Norwegian National Assembly is going to be reversed. They simply have to. Occasionally science wins, but politics is a very special arena.”
“The public scene is about politics and their knowledge about science is scarce... Address politics the way you address politicians and not the way you address scientists. That is my experience, anyway,” he said.