SCA Sheds Light on the Open Loop Scrubber Confusion

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The Suez Canal Authority (SCA) has clarified its position on the use of open-loop scrubbers whilst transiting the waterway to comply with the new IMO 2020 regulation, reports the Loadstar.

In effect, this means ships with scrubbers installed must switch off the exhaust gas cleaning systems during the 12-hour passage, thus releasing pollutants into the atmosphere.

No to exhaust gas

In a note issued on Sunday which followed confusion over the wording of SCA Circular No 8/2019, the SCA has said that “cleaning water from (exhaust gas) is forbidden to discharge to Suez Canal during transition of ships at any circumstances.”

The same circular also states it is “forbidden” to discharge sea water into the canal during transit “in any circumstances”.

One observer familiar with Egypt told ratification of Annex V1 “could take years”, given the slow legislative process in the country.

IMO regulations

The IMO 2020 0.5% global sulphur cap on marine fuel for ships not fitted with scrubbers came into force on 1 January, having been agreed by all member states, including Egypt.

However, governments officially need to pass laws in their own countries for the regulation to become enforceable.

The Loadstar understands there are still many states, like Egypt, that have yet to ratify MARPOL Annex V1, which could undermine the success of IMO 2020 and encourage rogue operators to undercut compliant competitors on secondary trades.

Assuming Egypt does eventually ratify Annex V1, the ban on open-loop scrubbers by the SCA is a further concern for shipowners that have invested in the technology to mitigate the higher cost of LSFO (low-sulphur fuel oil).

Open loop scrubbers

Around 80% of the scrubber systems installed on ships are of the open-loop type that use seawater to separate the sulphur content from the fuel before it enters the ships’ exhaust funnel.

The sulphuric acid is kept on board for safe discharge at a nominated port, while the wash water is discharged back into the sea.

There are a limited number of ships with closed-loop scrubbers, which keep the wash water on board for later discharge, and there is hybrid equipment that can switch between the two operations, but both are expensive to install and operate.

Compliance with global sulphur cap

A number of independent studies have sought to prove that the use of open-loop scrubbers is a “safe and effective means of complying with IMO 2020”, but ship operators have struggled to get the message across.

Indeed, more than 80 ports around the world have prohibited the use of open-loop scrubbers in their territorial waters.

The Clean Ship Alliance (CSA), a pro-scrubber lobby, told The Loadstar recently it was “actively engaging” with port authorities over their concerns, but suggested the bans had been put in place after “very little hard research”, with many ports deciding to prohibit their use on the back of bans by others.

Vessels fitted with open-loop scrubbers calling at ports with ban need to switch tanks to compliant fuel before entering the jurisdiction, as is the case for the ultra-low ECAs (emission control areas) of North Europe and the US.

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Source: The Loadstar

 

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