The European Community Shipowners’ Association has published a paper today asking EU Member States to “adopt a clear, long-term and above all harmonised position on the issue of the discharges of wash water produced by open-loop scrubbers installed on ships.”
From 1 January 2015, the EU Sulphur Directive will ensure that all ships sailing in sulphur emission control areas - such as the Channel, North Sea and the Baltic Sea - use bunker fuels with a top sulphur content of 0.1 percent.
Scrubbers use wash water to get rid unwanted substances from an exhaust gas stream. The devices are one of the few abatement technologies that enable ships to reduce the sulphur content in their emissions.
The EU Water Framework Directive has always been a worry for European shipowners as it puts a limit on the content of toxic substances in ports, coastal area and estuaries. This means that wash water discharge will in some areas be under the set limit and in others be prohibitively high. The result, according to the ECSA, could be a “lack of harmonisation and clarity [which] will without a doubt hamper the uptake of scrubber technology.”
The WFD is also likely in the future to also reduce the amount certain substance and phase out others completely. Because of a lack of information on wash water discharge composition, it is currently impossible to work out which scrubber discharges fall into those categories.
ECSA Secretary-General, Patrick Verhoeven, explained: “The current uncertainty jeopardises investments already made by ship owners eager to meet the compliance criteria before the fast-approaching deadline of 1 January 2015, but more importantly hinders the commissioning of future scrubber installations.
"Any restriction of the use of scrubber technology should in our view be preceded by a scientific assessment with any changes in the approval procedure of such systems reflected under IMO rules. Also, shipowners that have already committed to a scrubbing system should not be disproportionately penalised”.