EU shipowners call for scrubber clarity

Patrick Verhoeven, secretary-general, ECSA, says shipowners Patrick Verhoeven, secretary-general, ECSA, says shipowners "should not be disproportionately penalised". Photo: ECSA

European shipowners are calling on EU Member States to adopt a clear, long-term position on the issue of the discharges of washwater by open-loop scrubber technology, ahead of the EU Sulphur Directive.

Under the Sulphur Directive, as of 1 January 2015, all ships sailing in the Sulphur Emission Control Areas (SECAs) must use bunker fuels with a maximum sulphur content of 0.1% or that the same level of emission is reached by the use of alternative fuels or compliant reduction technologies. But, shipowners are calling for legal certainty when it comes to the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD), which sets limits for the content of pollutants in ports, estuaries and coastal areas. In some waters, the discharge of washwater will be well under the limits set, but in other areas with poorer water quality, it might be prohibited by Member State legislation.

“The current uncertainty jeopardises investments already made by shipowners 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,” said Patrick Verhoeven, secretary-general, ECSA.

In addition, the WFD foresees a progressive reduction of some substances and complete phasing out of others. However, due to a lack of information on the actual composition of washwater discharges, it is currently not possible to identify whether scrubber discharges fall within the limits set.

“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,” Mr Verhoeven added.

See the GreenPort Winter issue for a feature on scrubbers and their environmental benefits.

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