EU Shipowners, Ports Urge for Clarification of Scrubbers Usage

Following the plenary meeting of the ESSF (European Sustainable Shipping Forum) last week, European shipowners and port authorities urgently call for the clarification of the rules pertaining to the use of scrubbers.


The EU Sulphur Directive is set to come into force in only a few months, on the first of January 2015. The new sulphur requirements impose that ships sailing in the SECAs (Sulphur Emission Control Areas-the Channel, the North Sea and the Baltic Sea) use bunker fuels with a sulphur content of maximum 0.1% or that the same level of emissions is reached by the use of alternative fuels or compliant abatement technologies.

Scrubbers have been identified as one of the few abatement technologies available allowing ships to reduce the sulphur content in their emissions. However, a lack of clarity in EU rules jeopardises their uptake.

First of all, EU Member State legislation differs when it comes to discharges of water used by the scrubbers to filter ship exhaust gases. While some countries allow water discharges close to their shore, others don’t, while in some others strict conditionality applies.

Moreover, clarifications are urgently needed regarding the classification of the scrubber water discharges in the provisions of the EU Water Framework Directive, which foresees a progressive reduction for some pollutants and a complete phasing out for others. As a result, due to a lack of accurate information on the composition of these discharges, there is currently very high uncertainty on whether the operation of some scrubbers will be allowed in close proximity to the shore.

“Not only does the current uncertainty jeopardise investments already made by operators, it also hampers the commissioning of future installations, while time is dangerously running out,” pointed out Patrick Verhoeven, ECSA Secretary-General. “We urge the Commission and the Member States to clarify these points lest some operators start retrofitting their ships too late to be compliant with the new rules by 01 January 2015.”

The Commission is actively promoting scrubbers as one of the solutions to meet the new SECA obligations. It is time though to replace the question marks with clear answers, in particular in the case of open loop systems,” says Isabelle Ryckbost, ESPO Secretary General.Policy makers should work towards a more coherent approach both at EU and national level as concerns the conditions under which this technology can be used in the different Member States.”

Press Release, June 30, 2014

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