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Stand.earth highlights debate on ship scrubbers in this week’s ‘IMO Arctic Summit’

19 Feb 2020

Stand.earth, a member of Clean Arctic Alliance, on Tuesday (18 February) highlighted a paper submitted to the International Marine Organization (IMO)’s Pollution Prevention & Response Subcommittee (PPR7) for the upcoming review of the 2015 Guidelines for Exhaust Gas Cleaning Systems (EGCS).

PPR7 meets 17-21 February in IMO headquarters in London for what is being called the ‘IMO Arctic Summit’ – due to its focus on the global shipping industry’s impacts on the Arctic region.

Among the notable agenda items during PPR7 is a review of the 2015 Guidelines for Exhaust Gas Cleaning Systems (EGCS), or scrubbers, and an evaluation and harmonization of rules and guidance on the discharge of liquid effluents from scrubbers into water.

Questions over the efficacy and cumulative marine impacts of ship scrubbers will be front and center during this week’s International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Pollution Prevention & Response sub-committee (PPR7) meeting, said Stand.earth.

Several international environmental organizations — including Friends of the Earth International, World Wildlife Fund, and Pacific Environment — have submitted a paper to PPR7 calling into question the use of scrubbers as alternative compliance mechanisms for the new 2020 fuel sulphur regulations. Stand.earth is a supporting organization of the paper.

The paper, titled “Refining the title and scope of a new output on the discharge of liquid effluents from EGCS”, calls for consideration of the impacts of scrubber effluent on areas of cultural and ecological sensitivity among other important factors. 

“This week’s negotiations on the use of scrubbers is timely and urgent, as increasing numbers of ships are installing these systems so they can circumvent the IMO’s 2020 fuel sulfur standards while continuing to burn heavy fuel oil,” said Stand.earth Senior Shipping Campaigner Kendra Ulrich.

“The cumulative impacts on the marine environment of increasing volumes of scrubber waste being discharged into our seas was not adequately considered prior to allowing their use. 

“The vast majority of these scrubbers are open-loop systems, which effectively turn air pollution into water pollution.” 

Kendra Ulrich highlighted an increasing number of ports and countries are banning the discharge of scrubber wastewater due to water pollution concerns. 

“Installing scrubbers also does nothing to address the spill risk associated with the use of heavy fuel oil and provides inferior reductions to black carbon over simply switching to cleaner fuel sources,” she concluded. 

Other IMO Papers submitted to PPR7

PPR 7/INF.22 – Exhaust gas cleaning system discharges into water off the west coast of Canada and potential impacts on threatened and endangered marine mammals (FOEI, WWF, Pacific Environment)


PPR 7/12/4 – Refining the title and scope of a new output on discharge of liquid effluentsfrom EGCS (FOEI, WWF and Pacific Environment)


Related: IMO PPR committee to finalise verification guidelines for fuel oil carriage ban
Related: Clean Arctic Alliance: Will London shipping summit act to protect Arctic from spills and emissions?
Related: Argus Media: Open-loop scrubber ban ‘unlikely in 2020’, says IMO
Related: IBIA: Facts and fears in the open loop scrubber debate

Photo credit: International Maritime Organisation
Published: 19 February, 2020

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