According to IBIA, a full review of the 2015 Guidelines on Exhaust Gas Cleaning Systems (EGCS) needs more time, as only elements regarding 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. MEPC 74 will also discuss about ways to address any potential environmental impact of scrubber discharges to water.
IMO’s Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR 6) asked 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. In fact, it agreed only to forward the parts about malfunctions to MEPC 74 for review and finalization, with a view to possibly issuing it as an MEPC circular.
When the EGCS Guidelines are updated, PPR 6 agreed that any existing systems approved according to the 2015 EGCS guidelines will not need to be approved again.
PPR 6 also had a discussion about a submission from the Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP). GESAMP is 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 an initial study that was submitted to PPR 6 from Germany appeared to conclude that open loop washwater discharges present a significant risk to the marine environment, a presentation describing a detailed scientific impact assessment by Japan concluded that it did not pose an unacceptable effect either to marine organisms or seawater quality.
In the same wavelength, Carnival Corporation recently presented the results of an independent, two-year scientific wash-water study that shows its scrubbers are a safe and effective means for compliance with IMO’s 2020 requirements.
The study found that the wash-water samples from scrubbers were below the limits that numerous major national and international water quality and land-based water discharge standards have established.
Moreover, PPR 6 decided that more scientific research should be encouraged for submission to the IMO. It also asked the IMO Secretariat to consider the possibility of GESAMP conducting a review of the relevant scientific literature and oversee a modelling study of scrubber discharge washwater impacts.
IBIA had recently called for any decisions relating to open loop scrubber discharges to be based on sound science, explaining that the timing of a series of local bans on open loop discharges along with widespread negative press coverage came at an unfortunate time and has created regulatory uncertainty for ships that have adopted this 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
Now, the discussion about the possible environmental impact of scrubbers discharges is focused on harbours, ports and sensitive sea areas such as estuaries and enclosed waters.