IMO PPR Group Seeks to Harmonize Attitudes to Scrubbers

by Jack Jordan, Managing Editor, Ship & Bunker
Tuesday April 12, 2022

Last week's meeting of the IMO's Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR) sought to set common guidelines which port authorities around the world could use to determine whether scrubber washwater presents a risk to their environment.

The sub-committee prepared a draft circular for the next meeting of the IMO's Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) setting out guidelines for risk and impact assessments on scrubber washwater. The guidelines are for member states to use when considering local or regional regulations to protect sensitive waters from the water discharged by some models of scrubber.

Around the IMO 2020 transition several port and local authorities imposed restrictions on the discharge of scrubber washwater in their areas, citing a potential threat to the marine environment. Scrubber users and supporters have tended to view those restrictions as being unnecessary, and the IMO is now seeking to harmonise how the environmental impact is assessed.

"What came out of the last MEPC was the way to address the harmonisation proposal by the European Commission was through a risk assessment, and to provide some standard guidelines that ports and port states can use to help them make decisions," Michael Kaczmarek of Carnival Corporation, chair of scrubber advocate group the Clean Shipping Alliance, told Ship & Bunker.

"We can take the decision-making about restrictions or no restrictions out of the realm of just taking the precautionary principle, and throwing it more into the realm of science.

"What I think the IMO is saying is that they believe there's enough data available out there to be able to use with an agreed risk-assessment process and be able to come up with a science-based, data-based solution."

In the guidelines adopted last week the factors affecting whether a location could be suitable or unsuitable for open-loop scrubber discharge could include the configuration of the harbour, what the currents are, how many ships with scrubbers are expected to visit and how big their engines are, among others.

The guidelines could be made an official recommendation by the MEPC within months.

"The draft guidelines will be sent to MEPC in June with some remarks," Kaczmarek said.

"And if consensus is achieved at MEPC, the guidelines could be released immediately as a recommendation.

"But if MEPC wanted to impose them with legal force, it would probably take some time such as two years."