Call to convert all open-loop scrubbers

The International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), a Washington DC-based non-profit organisation, is calling for all open-loop scrubbers to be converted to closed-loop, and for an eventual ban on the technology. Roughly four out of every five scrubbers are the cheaper, open-loop variety.

The scrubber debate, which topped shipping headlines all last year, has gone quiet in recent months, with the all consuming coronavirus pandemic dominating the daily news agenda.

Nevertheless, there have been a number of studies completed recently, including in Belgium looking at the effects of scrubber discharge water in the North Sea and in Canada looking at the effect scrubbers are having on marine life on the west coast of the country.

Writing on the ICCT’s website, Dr Bryan Comer has urged all existing open-loop scrubbers to be converted into closed-loop ones.

“This would allow shipowners who have already spent millions of dollars on scrubbers to continue to use them, but would also dramatically reduce the amount of polluted water that’s dumped overboard,” Comer, a senior researcher at the ICCT, wrote in an article outlining a four-point plan to phase out scrubbers completely.

Comer is also calling for a ban on all new scrubber installations, as well as a prohibition of closed-loop bleed-off water discharges in places that should be protected. Ultimately Comer wants to see the International Maritime Orgaization agree on a timeframe for phasing out all scrubbers.

“Ships with scrubbers do and will continue to have a market advantage over ships without because the fuel cost savings of using high-sulfur heavy fuel oil outweigh the capital, operating, and maintenance costs of the scrubber. If new scrubber installations are prohibited, then it’s only fair that existing scrubber installations be phased out,” Comer wrote.

Prior to working with the ICCT, Comer was with the Great Lakes Commission.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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