Questions over the efficacy and cumulative marine impacts of ship scrubbers occupied the front burner during the International Maritime Organisation’s Pollution Prevention and Response sub-committee meeting, which started on Monday.
Scrubbers or Exhaust Gas Cleaning Systems are used to remove particulate matter and harmful components, such as sulphur oxides and nitrogen oxides from the exhaust gasses generated as a result of combustion processes in marine engines.
Among the notable agenda items during PPR7 is a review of the 2015 Guidelines for Exhaust Gas Cleaning Systems, or scrubbers, and evaluation and harmonisation of rules and guidance on the discharge of liquid effluents from scrubbers into water.
Several international environmental organisations — 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 2020fuel sulphur regulations.
Hellenic Shipping News reported that Stand.earth was a supporting organisation 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.
The Senior Shipping campaigner at Stand.earth, Kendra Ulrich, was quoted as saying, “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.
“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.
Ulrich pointed out that increasing numbers of ports and countries were banning the discharge of scrubber wastewater due to water pollution concerns.
She added that installing scrubbers also did nothing to address the spill risk associated with the use of heavy fuel oil and provided inferior reductions to black carbon over simply switching to cleaner fuel sources.”

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