This article is our continuing article series on environmental issues, marine protection and pollution, especially that the International Maritime Organization (IMO) “Clean Fuel Bill” takes effect early 2020.

The IMO rules will now prohibit ships using fuels with sulfur content above 0.5% unless they are equipped with exhaust gas cleaning systems commonly called scrubbers.

Accordingly, a latest report from a London Maritime Magazine shows more ports around the world are banning ships using fuel cleaning systems that pumps wastewater into the sea, one of the cheapest options for meeting new environmental shipping rules.

The growing number of port of destinations imposing stricter regulations than those set by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) are expected to be a costly headache for cruise and shipping firms as they face tough market conditions and slowing world trade. They might have to pay for new equipment and extra types of fuel or additives and adjust their routes.

“Reuters has learned that individual ports in Finland, Lithuania, Ireland and Russia have all banned or restricted such cleaning systems equipment, according to interviews with officials and reviews of documents by Reuters” the same report said. Singapore, China and Fujairah in United Arab Emirates (UAE) have already banned the same, called “ open loop scrubbers”.

The Wikipedia definition of a scrubber systems (e.g. chemical scrubbers, gas scrubbers) “are a diverse group of air pollution control devices that can be used to remove some particulates and or gases from industrial exhaust streams. The first air scrubber was designed to remove carbon dioxide from the air of an early submarine. Traditionally, the term “scrubber” has referred to pollution control devices that use liquid to wash unwanted pollutants from a gas stream.

“Recently, the term has also been used to describe systems that inject a dry reagent or slurry into a dirty exhaust stream to “wash out” acid gases. Scrubbers are one of the primary devices that control gaseous emissions, especially acid gases. Scrubbers can also be used for heat recovery from hot gases by flue-gas condensation. There are several methods to remove toxic or corrosive compound from exhaust gas and neutralize it”.

One side effect of scrubbing is that the process only moves the unwanted substance from the exhaust gases into a liquid solution, solid paste or powder form. The Open Loop Scrubber System utilizes or are sprayed with water or chemicals for scrubbing and the washed water, if not properly treated or monitored, can be discharged to the sea with higher environmental risk and pollution. This must be treated or disposed of safely, if it can reused. This is an example of a CLOSED LOOP SYSTEM. The other one is hybrid type with a loop that can be opened or closed.

The London Maritime Magazine added “that a ban on all types of scrubbers is also proposed. Companies that invested in open loop scrubbers will be unable to use them while sailing through these port waters. They also fear the IMO Rules could change again and ban open loop scrubbers altogether”.
Furthermore, “The world’s top cruise operator Carnival Corporation has invested over $500 million to deploy the devices. Carnival’s Mike Kacsmarek, senior vice president for marine technology and refit with oversight of the group’s scrubber s program , said the port moves were ”very struggling.” The more ports that participate in this, the greater the economic impact, he said. “ A lot of people out there, in good faith made significant investments.”

Toxic pollutants. Yes, they are. (Ref: Emissions of Maritime Transport by Schrooteen et al, 2009)
From the source of World Shipping Organization, “ships generate air emissions of sulfur oxides (SOx), oxides of nitrogen (NOx), particulate matter (PM) and carbon dioxide as a result of the fuel used to power them. Ship generated emissions can be significant in areas subject to heavy marine traffic, so many actions have been undertaken in recent years to significantly reduce air emissions from ships. Most of these actions have been taken through Annex Vi of MARPOL, an International treaty developed through the International maritime Organization (IMO0 that establishes legally-binding international standards to regulate specific emissions and discharges generated by ships”.

The World Shipping Council and its members have been leaders in calling for the establishment of stringent international standards controlling air emissions from ships. In 2007, the WSC supported the most stringent standards ever proposed for nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur oxides (SOx) and particulate matter (PM) emissions from ships. These standards are now in force and are projected to result in significantly air quality improvements. More recently, the WSC, together with other organizations and governments, is engaged in discussions at the IMO and the European Commission that seek to reduce carbon emissions generated by shipping sector.

Oxides of nitrogen (NOx), sulfur oxides (Sox) and particulate matter (PM) are by- products of combustion associated with engines used on ships and other transportation modes. NOx emissions from diesel engines are a function of engine design and are generally controlled through standards established for new engines. SOx and PM emissions are heavily influenced by the fuel used and its relative sulfur content. Standards of these and other air emissions are established by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) as well as national and regional authorities.

Maritime traffic accounts for approximately 2.1% of the world’s CO2 emissions and liner shipping accounts for approximately ½ of the total 2.1% associated with all maritime traffic, while moving roughly 52% of the maritime commerce by value. Like other air emissions discussed above, CO2 is produced as ships use petroleum based fuel to power main and auxiliary engines. The World Shipping Council and its members are engaged in numerous efforts to reduce CO2, improve efficiency and are working to secure a global agreement addressing CO2 emissions from ships through the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

For now, ships with open loop scrubbers docking or sailing through these ports would need to store the waste in tanks until it could be discharged elsewhere or avoid the ports. The other option is to use a scrubber with a closed loop, which stores the waste until it can be treated on land.
Ship owners could also choose another type of energy source such as low sulfur or liquefied natural gas (LNG). Some fuel experts say there will be enough low sulfur fuel available to avoid fitting scrubbers.

Data from Norwegian Risk Management and DNV GL, a certification company, shows that there will be a total of 3,693 ships running with scrubbers by the end of 2019 and over 80% will be open loop devices, compared with 15% using hybrid and 2% opting for closed loop scrubbers.
Sadly, a majority of these 80% with open loop scrubbers will pass through our Philippine International Waters.
Considering how loose we are in terms of marine protection, coastal guarding and lack of environmental risk monitoring, we are again susceptible to be the dumping ground of their marine waste.

Philippines as capital of dumped waste? At least, not wasted.

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