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Press Release: The hype around open loop exhaust gas cleaning systems risks loss of focus on key issue

PRESS RELEASE: As the United Nations agency responsible for preventing pollution from shipping and for improving the industry’s safety and security, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) exercises great care when assessing pollution control. The guidelines for the use of exhaust gas cleaning systems (EGCS), also known as marine scrubbers, have been exhaustively examined and revised three times by the organisation’s sub-committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR). All administrations during the plenary session of the recent sixth PPR sub-committee meeting again endorsed the use of EGCS as an approved option for complying with the 2020 0.5% global Sulphur target.

The sub-committee reached this conclusion despite concerns expressed by the EU in a paper submitted to MEPC 74 due to a German report alleging a transfer of pollution from air to sea. Japan meanwhile told PPR6 that it believes the use of heavy fuel oils in combination with a scrubber is a better choice than burning low sulphur fuels. Japan made the point that marine scrubbers are able to remove airborne particulates and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) as well as limit sulphur emissions. The Clean Shipping Alliance 2020 also presented a detailed study of the composition and quality of EGCS washwater, which reaffirmed that EGCS are effective and safe for the ocean environment.

“With emotive coverage fanning the flames of debate over open loop EGCS use, the shipping industry is plagued by uncertainty on how to comply with MARPOL Annex VI regulation 14.1.3. It is therefore still not sure that there will be high levels of compliance,” says Donald Gregory, director of the Exhaust Gas Cleaning Systems Association. “Those owners who have fitted EGCS have invested in compliance. That investment should not be undermined by controversial claims that EGCS are dirty or harmful. The fact is, it is only vessels fitted with EGCS that can confidently assure society they will reduce sulphur emissions below the 0.5% fuel sulphur limit and in most cases even further. Focusing the debate on whether one means of compliance or the other is bad, detracts from the key issue – ensuring that the shipping industry as a whole reduces sulphur emissions for the benefit of the environment and human health. Aiming to influence regulations this way is unsustainable, damaging to the world economy and undemocratic. It also risks leading to a fragmented approach to compliance, with countries taking different positions on scrubber use; precisely the opposite of what the IMO is meant to achieve.”

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