Work remaining on updating IMO guidelines for scrubbers
A full review of the 2015 Guidelines on Exhaust Gas Cleaning Systems (EGCS) needs more time, meaning only elements relating to malfunction of the EGCS system or a monitoring instrument have been sent for approval by the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 74) in May. That meeting will also be going into more detailed discussions about how to address any potential environmental impact of scrubber discharges to water.
The recent meeting of the IMO’s Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR 6) decided to ask for an extension of the target for completion of the updated EGCG Guidelines to 2020 after discussing a comprehensive review undertaken by a correspondence group (which IBIA took part in). It agreed only to forward the parts relating to malfunctions to MEPC 74 for review and finalization, with a view to potentially issuing it as an MEPC circular.
Once the EGCS Guidelines have been updated, PPR 6 agreed that any existing systems approved in accordance with the 2015 EGCS guidelines will not need to be approved again.
PPR 6 had a discussion about a submission from the Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP), an advisory body that advises the United Nations system on the scientific aspects of marine environmental protection, as well as information from studies on washwater impacts. While a preliminary study submitt4ed to PPR 6 from Germany appeared to conclude that open loop washwater discharges present a significant risk to the marine environment, a presentation outlining a detailed scientific impact assessment by Japan concluded that it did not pose an unacceptable effect either to marine organisms or seawater quality.
PPR 6 concluded that further scientific research should be encouraged for submission to the IMO, and also asked the IMO Secretariat to explore the possibility of GESAMP carrying out a review of the relevant scientific literature and oversee a modelling study of scrubber discharge washwater impacts.
IBIA recently called for any decisions regarding open loop scrubber discharges to be based on sound science, pointing out that the timing of a series of local bans on open loop discharges along with widespread negative press coverage came at an unfortunate time as it has created regulatory uncertainty for ships that have adopted abatement technology. Scrubbers will play a part in ensuring sufficient global refining capacity to meet demand for the 0.50% sulphur limit in 2020 as it allows a portion of the global fleet to continue using high sulphur fuel oil, thereby easing some of the demand pressure on low sulphur fuels.
The discussion about the potential environmental impact of EGCS discharges is focused on harbours, ports and sensitive sea areas like estuaries and enclosed waters.