One of the reasons why Star Bulk has chosen to use exhaust gas cleaning systems to comply with the 2020 regulations is that scrubbers are an approved method of compliance as per regulation 4 of MARPOL Annex VI and in accordance with the IMO Guidelines for EGCS.

We considered that by using EGCS we ensure that our vessels comply with the global 0.5% sulphur cap even in cases of lack of availability of low sulphur compliant fuel in certain ports.

EGCS are also able to reduce SOx emissions down to 0.1%, allowing our vessels to comply also in the Emission Control Areas. They also reduce PM and PAH emissions compared to burning compliant fuel – Sox, PAH, and PM are dangerous to human health.

In addition, EGCS allow our vessels to continue to burn HFO (Heavy Fuel Oil) which is expected to be more economical compared to compliant fuels, hence help us better manage financial risks and protect the company’s sustainability in case of a potential market downturn.

We did think also that we would avoid operational challenges related to the use of compliant fuel such as cleaning of tanks and testing of new fuel blends.

Another point is that EGCS provide a clean use for HFO which is inevitably produced by the refining process. Usage of EGCS also reduces the demand of compliant fuel and therefore the inflationary pressures on the price of fuels which is then passed on to consumers and the society.

Now, regarding the challenges that we have faced or we expect to face: Sometimes there is the misconception that companies that choose scrubbers are having an easier time than companies that choose compliant fuels. Installing scrubbers is not an easy thing. It involves commitment of resources, it involves a lot of hard work and a lot of operational, commercial and organizational disruptions.

Going back to 2016-17, we had to understand scrubber technologies and how they work and also we had to research different makers. During 2018 we tried to secure contracts with EGCS suppliers and with shipyards for installation slots. We also had to secure financing for equipment purchase and installations and we had to put together a dedicated team to manage the retrofit program across our fleet.

2019 is expected to be the hardest one. We have to make sure that we complete timely the Engineering Studies for the EGCS installation, while also ensure that EGCS material is shipped timely and efficiently. Moreover, we have to position the vessels appropriately and timely for installation. Of course these come with specific challenges as we will have to forfeit revenue due to off-hire days for installation.

Come January 2020 and provided that we do succeed to complete all our installations, we don’t expect to face major challenges. We do have to ensure that crews on board are well-trained on EGCS monitoring, repairs and maintenance. We also have to ensure that we have the necessary spare parts on board the vessels, such as water pumps or sensors for water analyzers. In addition we have to ensure a remote and continuous EGCS monitoring by the maker and by our office, while the maker must be performing a routine annual maintenance of the systems.

Open-loop scrubbers water discharge

Regarding discharge water from open-loop scrubbers, there are IMO Guidelines for exhaust gas cleaning systems, which set standards for the discharge water parametres, as well as for:

  • PH (with temperature compensation);
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH);
  • Turbidity, also a proxy for metals.

The Guidelines require the vessels to continuously monitor these parametres, to keep a secure log which needs to stay on board the vessel for at least 18 months, so that it can be verified and audited be classification societies on behalf of flag states and also by the Port State Control.

So yes, there are standards with regard to discharge water and yes the vessels are required to monitor discharge water. There have been question marks with regards to the environmental impact of the discharge water from open-loop scrubbers. We have recently seen two very comprehensive studies on this matter; one has been a Carnival-DNV GL study which assessed almost 300 water samples, which is the largest dataset of samples in the marine industry. This study checked whether the water parameters are within a number of international water standards and it concluded the discharge water parameters are will within IMO standards, but also well within other standards such as the EU water surface standard, the German ordinance standard and others.

What this study did not do is that it did not examine any accumulation effect that discharge water would have on sea water quality and also on marine organisms, which is what a Japanese study did. This is a study that concluded by the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism. They assessed the accumulation effect of discharge water from open-loop scrubbers. They took into consideration the worst case scenario, where for a period of 10 years all vessels calling at very restricted areas, such as in Tokyo Bay, would be fitted with a scrubber and they concluded that there is no short-term or long-term effect from discharge water from open-loop scrubbers both on sea water quality, but also on marine organisms.

Hopefully these studies will now be taken into consideration by any stakeholder who is questioning the environmental performance open-loop scrubbers.


Above text is an edited version of Ms. Charis Plakantonaki’s presentation during the 2019 GREEN4SEA Conference.

You may view her presentation herebelow

The views presented hereabove are only those of the author and not necessarily those of  SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion  purposes only.

Charis Plakantonaki, Chief Strategy Officer, Star Bulk Carriers Corp.

Charis Plakantonaki is the Chief Strategy Officer of Star Bulk Carriers Corp., the largest US listed dry bulk shipping company. Before joining Star Bulk in 2015, Charis worked at Thenamaris (Ships Management) Inc. for seven years, initially as Strategic Projects Manager and subsequently as Head of Corporate Communications. Prior to Thenamaris, she was a Senior Consultant at the Boston Consulting Group, where she managed strategy development projects for multinational companies across different industries. Charis received a B.S. in International & European Economics & Politics from the University of Macedonia, where she graduated as valedictorian and a Master in Business Administration from INSEAD. She is  the Vice-Chair of the Clean Shipping Alliance 2020, and she also serves on the Board of Trustees of the Anatolia College in Thessaloniki and on the Advisory Board of the Blue Growth initiative.