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EGCSA urges focus on health and environment amid hype over open-loop scrubbers

The hype around the use of open-loop scrubbers is risking the loss of focus on key issues of human health and the environment, the Exhaust Gas Cleaning Systems Association (EGCSA) has said.

An increasing number of governments and authorities have decided to ban ships from using open-loop scrubbers in their ports or coastal waters, as they reasoned that discharging wash water from open-loop scrubbers into their territorial waters is not acceptable.

“With emotive coverage fanning the flames of debate over open-loop EGCS use, the shipping industry is plagued by uncertainty on how to comply with Marpol Annex VI regulation 14.1.3. It is therefore still not sure that there will be high levels of compliance,” said Donald Gregory, director of the EGCSA.

The association pointed out that the IMO guidelines on the use of marine scrubbers have been exhaustively examined and revised three times by the organisation’s sub-committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR).

All administrations during the plenary session of the recent sixth PPR sub-committee meeting again endorsed the use of EGCS as an approved option for complying with the 2020 0.5% global sulphur target.

“Those owners who have fitted EGCS have invested in compliance. That investment should not be undermined by controversial claims that EGCS are dirty or harmful. The fact is, it is only vessels fitted with EGCS that can confidently assure society they will reduce sulphur emissions below the 0.5% fuel sulphur limit and in most cases even further,” Gregory said.

Read more: EGCSA urges authorities not to make hasty decisions banning open-loop scrubbers

The sub-committee reached the conclusion on approving the use of EGCS despite concerns raised by the EU in a paper submitted to MEPC 74 due to a German report alleging a transfer of pollution from air to sea, the EGCSA recalled.

It added that Japan, meanwhile, told PPR6 that it believes the use of heavy fuel oils in combination with a scrubber is a better choice than burning low sulphur fuels. Japan made the point that scrubbers are able to remove airborne particulates and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons as well as limit sulphur emissions.

The Clean Shipping Alliance 2020 also presented a detailed study of the composition and quality of EGCS wash water, which reaffirmed that EGCS are effective and safe for the ocean environment.

“Focusing the debate on whether one means of compliance or the other is bad, detracts from the key issue – ensuring that the shipping industry as a whole reduces sulphur emissions for the benefit of the environment and human health,” Gregory said.

He added: “Aiming to influence regulations this way is unsustainable, damaging to the world economy and undemocratic. It also risks leading to a fragmented approach to compliance, with countries taking different positions on scrubber use; precisely the opposite of what the IMO is meant to achieve.”

Read more: Open-loop scrubbers – an own goal for the shipping industry