Denmark Bans Scrubber Washwater Discharge

by Ship & Bunker News Team
Thursday April 11, 2024

The government of Denmark is set to introduce a ban on the discharge of washwater from scrubbers in its waters from next year.

The ban will take effect from July 1, 2025 at a distance of up to 12 nautical miles from the Danish coast, the country's Environment Ministry said in a statement on its website on Thursday.

The ministry had announced it was considering the ban a month earlier.

The ministry is particularly concerned with the presence of heavy metals and tar substances in scrubber washwater.

"This agreement is another important step towards a better marine environment," Environment Minister Magnus Heunicke said in the statement.

"Scrubber water emits a number of problematic substances that accumulate on our seabed and are absorbed into the sea food chains and end up in the fish we eat.

"The discharge of environmentally hazardous substances comes from many different sources, but scrubber water is a source of which we have a lot of knowledge and data, which is why I am pleased that we now put an end to the pollution with scrubber water in Danish territorial waters."

Other Bans Around the World

Several port authorities around the world have introduced similar bans since 2020, when the global sulfur cap on bunker fuels of 0.50% drove many shipping companies to install scrubbers and continue using HSFO.

HSFO represented 32.3% of Singapore's total demand last year – up from 29.2% in 2022, 25.8% in 2021 and 21.3% in 2020.

But bans thus far have largely been fairly limited in geographical scope, and a ban covering all of Denmark's waters will be much larger in size. Denmark is also home to several leading bunkering companies including Bunker Holding and Monjasa, and one question to arise from the situation is whether these firms will face public pressure to halt HSFO sales.

The scrubber industry funded its own research on the environmental impact of washwater in 2021. The report found no toxicity impact for fish, and some short-term effects on algae and crustaceans in high concentrations.

The report characterised the risk to the aquatic environment as acceptable.

Denmark's ban goes further than others, in including a plan to ban 'bleed-off' discharge from closed-loop scrubbers as well from July 2029.

Industry body Danish Shipping called for robust enforcement of the ban.

"I am pleased that the politicians have chosen to listen to our request to introduce a sensible phase-in period, so that the shipping companies that have invested a lot of money in complying with the rules and reducing their sulfur emissions with a scrubber, have time to adapt to a new reality," Nina Porst, director of climate, environment, and safety at Danish Shipping, said in an emailed statement on Thursday.

"We will, of course, comply with the new rules, and therefore it is also important for us that the ban comes with a plan that will ensure robust enforcement.

"If this is not the case, it could end up putting some Danish shipping companies at a disadvantage compared to their foreign competitors."