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Clean Shipping Alliance Concerned About E.U. Scrubber Proposal

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By The Maritime Executive 2019-02-20 19:56:21

The Clean Shipping Alliance 2020 (CSA 2020) has expressed concerns about a proposal submitted by the European Commission (E.C.) which urges the IMO to change its exhaust gas cleaning system (scrubber) guidelines.

The proposal calls for “evaluation and harmonization” of scrubber discharges across all ports, worldwide. The proposal is intended for consideration by the 74th session of the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 74) which meets in May.

“This proposal is an attempt by the European Commission to push forward restrictions on scrubbers, which are accepted globally by the IMO, E.U. and others as acceptable means of improving air emissions quality in controlled areas,” said CSA 2020 Executive Director Ian Adams. 

“The E.C. initiative is needlessly creating baseless concerns at a time when there are already very real issues in the maritime industry regarding the future availability, suitability and cost of fuels and the effects on global trade and shipping that this will have. There could also be safety implications should ships be required to change fuels in high traffic areas close to ports.

“CSA 2020 members, who represent over 30 leading commercial and passenger shipping companies, have been investing for years to prepare their ships in time to meet emissions abatement targets in accordance with existing IMO and E.U. rules, which endorse the use of open and closed-loop scrubbers in all waters,” said Adams. “To see the Commission take this step within months of the entry-into-force of the Global ECA is beyond disappointing.”

In a letter to its membership, seen by CSA 2020, a European national shipowners’ association says: “The E.C. submission does not identify any scientific evidence of potential risks but is lost in assumptions and speculation about possible contaminant levels and claimed risk potentials.”

In its proposal, the Commission refers to the interim result of a study to be completed in May 2019 by the Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency (BSH) for the investigation of scrubber wash water from closed loop and open loop systems. As the preliminary conclusions of the BSH study do not appear to align with the Commission’s proposal, it is far from clear whether it will contain any suggestion of new restrictions on scrubber wash water, says Adams.

China's Maritime Safety Administration announced a ban on scrubber wash water release, effective January 1, 2019. The ban follows a similar one announced in November last year by Singapore's Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA). The MPA will not allow ships with open-loop scrubbers to discharge scrubber wash water in port after January 1, 2020. In order to remain in compliance, ships will have to switch to closed-loop scrubber operation if set up to do so or burn 0.5 percent sulfur fuel. 

In a recent review of the situation, consultant Jad Mouawad advised that more research will likely be needed to answer questions about scrubber wash water's environmental impact. "A quick analysis of the concerns raised with wash water from scrubbers indicate that more independent research and a more thorough analysis of the environmental risks those systems pose is needed. This applies regardless of whether the system is open, closed or hybrid," he concluded. "My strong recommendation is that the IMO member states put forward suggestions to that regard, rather than start applying restrictions on scrubbers."