As the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC74) meets this week in London, several environmental organisations have raised concerns about the use of scrubbers as an alternative compliance mechanism for the looming 2020 sulphur regulations.
Some have called for an immediate prohibition of the use of scrubbers in current Emission Control Areas ahead of the broader January 1, 2020 deadline, which will cut the allowable sulphur content in marine fuel from 3.5 percent to 0.5 percent.
This follows the US federal felony criminal case against Carnival Corporation that reportedly demonstrated how exhaust gas cleaning systems (EGCS) failed multiple times, leading to significant air and water pollution violations.
“As Carnival Corporation’s criminal debacle has shown, EGCS are not the answer to delivering air pollution reductions for the shipping sector. We are calling on the IMO to take the lead on avoiding the inevitable failures and resulting environmental and health impacts of scrubbers by putting in place a moratorium while the IMO reviews the technology’s marine and air pollution impacts,” said Kendra Ulrich, senior shipping campaigner at Stand.earth.
The proposition is backed by Stand.earth, Pacific Environment, Transport & Environment, Seas at Risk, Ecodes, Circumpolar Conservation Union, NABU, Friends of the Earth US, Environmental Investigation Agency, and WWF Canada.
There are, however, two sides to the scrubber story. The Clean Shipping Alliance 2020 (CSA 2020) represents commercial and passenger shipping companies and aims to support the use of scrubbers as a way to meet the upcoming environmental regulations in shipping.
Earlier this year, members of the CSA 2020 executive committee presented research to the port authorities that indicated that the wastewater generated by the exhaust gas cleaning process was environmentally acceptable and well within regulatory limits.
The organisation said that it received written approvals and ‘no objection’ letters from several port authorities indicating that they have no intention of banning the use of open-loop scrubbers in their waters, as HLPFI reported here.
The announcement from CSA 2020 followed concerns that ports will ban or restrict the use of open-loop scrubbers in their waters.
In response to the latest concerns raised by environmental organisations, Ian Adams, executive director of CSA 2020, said: “Collectively CSA 2020 is dismayed at media reports from activist groups that are making unsupported statements regarding exhaust gas cleaning systems.
“Many of these statements are counterproductive and do little to help the global shipping industry’s ongoing efforts to prevent emissions of sulphur, black carbon, particulate matter and other substances from having a detrimental impact on the environment and on human health.”
Adams added that scrubbers are a reliable way to reducing emissions.