More ports continue to ban open-loop scrubbing systems

Recently the majority of maritime ports has prohibited the use of open-loop scrubbing systems installed on shipboard, and consequently, wash water release to reduce the level of pollutants in the water environment. This week Fujairah has banned open-loop scrubbers that could be a sign for the following similar restrictions.

It should be mentioned that there are a lot of studies detecting concerns about the problem of water pollution and acidification that is the result of wash water release from open-loop wet scrubbers. Nevertheless, there are no fewer studies showing the wet scrubbing not harmful to the marine environment.

Fujairah acts similar to Singapore that has banned the use of open-loop scrubbing systems last November. Herewith, China, along with numerous maritime ports, also prohibit them or say they are considering them.

The reasons for bans remain unclear. For example, the government of Singapore confirms that their main reason for the ban of open-loop wet scrubbing was “the protection of the marine environment and ensuring that the port waters are clean”. Fujairah, in its turn, has given absolutely no reasons for the prohibition. Herewith, Ireland made this decision because of the potential risks of open wet scrubbers negative impact to the environment.

The theme of environmental pollution control are discussed all over the world, that is why a lot of major ports put a ban despite the absence of open-loop wet scrubber systems impact because if a port does not put a discharge ban in place and it turns out that scrubber washwater is dangerous to the marine environment then reversing that damage could be difficult or even impossible.

However, in a lot of European countries, this precautionary principle is written into EU environmental law and it is obligatory. In this case, all member states have to take a pause until a scientific baseline on wet scrubbers‘ environmental operation has been developed, and port states have to review their respective water quality standards.

Nonetheless, the ban measures of open-loop scrubbing systems require scientific data approved the harmful impact and plenty of fair warning before they come into force. Moreover, ban measures take some time and require high costs for current owners of open-loop scrubbers.

Today there are no universally-accepted, solid scientific studies to address all those different concerns. Also, it is highly important to remember that there is no ideal solution for the world fleet because cleaner burning fuel cost for open-loop scrubbers is more expensive.

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