MEPC 75 approves guidelines for scrubbers, sets direction for evaluation of discharges

The 75th session of the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee dealt with several issues of interest to the marine fuel sector, although the agenda was significantly curtailed due to the limited time available during virtual IMO meetings.

As reported in separate IBIA articles, MEPC 75 adopted amendments to MARPOL Annex VI detailing sulphur verification procedures, approved draft amendments to introduce new mandatory greenhouse gas reduction efforts, and approved a draft amendment to MARPOL Annex I to introduce a prohibition on the use and carriage for us of HFO in the Artic. MEPC 75 also approved a draft MEPC circular on Guidelines for onboard sampling of fuel oil intended to be used or carried for use on board a ship.

In addition, MEPC 75 approved guidelines that have been developed to deal with various aspects of exhaust gas cleaning systems (EGCS), or scrubbers, and decided on other items as follows: 

1) Approved a draft MEPC resolution on the “2020 Guidelines for exhaust gas cleaning systems”.

2) Approved a draft revised MEPC circular on “Guidance on indication of ongoing compliance in the case of the failure of a single monitoring instrument, and recommended actions to take if the exhaust gas cleaning system (EGCS) fails to meet the provisions of the EGCS Guidelines”, for dissemination as MEPC.1/Circ.883/Rev.1

3) Approved the revised title for one of its current agenda items to read “Evaluation and harmonization of rules and guidance on the discharge of discharge water from EGCS into the aquatic environment” as well as the scope of work for this output. The original title for this agenda item, or output, was “Evaluation and harmonization of rules and guidance on the discharge of liquid effluents from EGCS into waters, including conditions and areas”).

4) Agreed to request the IMO Secretariat to explore the possibility of involving GESAMP in the development of different parts of the agreed scope for scientific advice, as appropriate, of the above agenda item.

The agenda item in point 3) above has been driven by concerns about the environmental impact of discharges from scrubber systems. It has led to a number of local and national restrictions on the use of open-loop systems, as well as calls for scrubbers to be phased out. Studies into the impacts of scrubber discharges have not helped settle the subject as they have diverging conclusions.

Interested Member Governments and international organizations were invited to submit proposals and comments to the eight session of the IMO’s Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR 8) on this subject, which will be followed with great interest by multiple stakeholders including shipowners, refiners and bunker suppliers.

PPR 8 has tentatively been scheduled for 22-26 March, 2021.

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