Guidelines for scrubbers, direction for evaluation of discharges deferred to MEPC 76*

*Correction: This article originally described work that was meant to happen at MEPC 75, however, these elements were deferred to MEPC 76 and PPR 9, due to time constraints because MEPC 75 and PPR 8 were held remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The text has been amended to show what was planned.

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 the original porgramme, MEPC 75 was meant to approve guidelines that have been developed to deal with various aspects of exhaust gas cleaning systems (EGCS), or scrubbers, and decide on other items as follows: 

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

2) 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) Approve 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) Agree 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.

All the above has been deferred to MEPC 76.

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.

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