Scrubber Association Slams Singapore’s Wash Water Discharge Ban

Vessel pollutionIllustration; Image Courtesy: Pixabay under CC0 Creative Commons license

Exhaust Gas Cleaning Systems Association (EGCSA) has criticized the decision of the Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) of Singapore to ban the discharge of wash water from open loop scrubbers in Singaporean waters in 2020.

The decision was attributed to the port’s efforts aimed at protecting marine environment amid fears that the contents of the released water include heavy metals and poly-aromatic hydrocarbons, potentially posing a risk to marine life.

The association believes the disappointing decision came without a consultation process with the industry representatives and that it wasn’t based on proven scientific findings as “no studies have been published that indicate measurable harm to the marine environment.”

 “We encourage all ports to avoid the quick headline which is politically motivated and provides no measurable society benefit and instead to seek dialogue with the industry, conduct thorough investigations into all the available options for meeting the 2020 sulphur cap and to focus on sustainable solutions that will stand the test of time,” EGCSA added.

The scrubber association pointed out that there are greater risks to human health resulting from the high toxicity of low sulphur fuels and more toxic distillates if no exhaust gas cleaning systems are used, citing findings of a study by the University of Rostock. Furthermore, EGCSA cited evidence from the refining industry and the IMO Secretary General’s Expert Group on sulphur that show that scrubbers emit 3%-5% less CO2 than low sulphur fuels over their lifecycle.

“The many dumbbell low sulphur fuels are also expected to have less complete combustion as the fuel boiling point distribution and that this will also contribute to higher particulate matter discharge and poorer air quality in Singapore,” the industry body noted.

The decision is likely to have a significant effect on crude carriers operating inert gas plant discharging into Singapore refineries and storage facilities, EGCSA continued, as well as all other vessels visiting Singaporean waters.

Over the past six months, the industry has witnessed a major scrubber ordering wave as companies announced their plans to become compliant with the 2020 sulphur cap. Shipping companies that were not big supporters of the technology, including Maersk, announced scrubber investments.

At the beginning of this week, industry major Scorpio revealed details of an extensive scrubber investment spreading across 80 ships, 52 tankers and 28 bulkers.

Data from the DNV GL classification society shows that 72 percent of the total systems installed are open loop systems, majority of which are closed loop ready, which means they can be converted into a closed system at a later stage.

On the other hand industry representatives like Paddy Rodgers, CEO of Euronav, and Nikolas Tsakos, CEO of Tsakos Energy Navigation (TEN) and Chairman of the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners (INTERTANKO), have been vocal about their disapproval of the technology.

Key arguments against the installation of scrubbers aside to environmental concerns have been weak regulatory oversight as well as weak prospects of return on investment.

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