Singapore bans open-loop scrubbers

One of the busiest port cities in the world, Singapore, is to ban the use of open-loop scrubbers in its waters.

Speaking at a conference to promote the local shipping register today, Andrew Tan, the outgoing chief executive of the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), said the decision to ban open-loop scrubbers had been made to protect the local marine environment.

An open-loop scrubber uses seawater as the medium for cleaning or scrubbing the exhaust. Seawater is normally supplied by a dedicated pump. CO2 dissolves in seawater forming carbonic acid, bicarbonate or carbonate ions depending on the pH. In a closed loop-type scrubber, meanwhile, treated water is circulated through the scrubber to keep the scrubbing process independent of the chemistry of the waters through which the vessel is sailing.

Open-loop scrubbers are currently banned in Belgium, California, Massachusetts and along Germany’s Rhine river with other countries understood to be looking at banning the technology.

“To protect the marine environment and ensure that the port waters are clean, the discharge of wash water from open-loop exhaust gas scrubbers in Singapore port waters will be prohibited,” MPA’s Tan said today.

Ships fitted with open-loop scrubbers calling at Singapore will be required to use compliant fuel. Ships fitted with hybrid scrubbers will be required to switch to the closed-loop mode of operation. Singapore, as a party to MARPOL Annex VI, will be providing reception facilities for the collection of residues generated from the operation of scrubbers.

MPA officials tell Splash that the ban will come into effect from January 1, 2020 – the day the global sulphur cap kicks in for international shipping.

In his final public speech before stepping down at MPA, Tan also gave various updates on technological initiatives underway in the Singapore maritime community, including blockchain.

MPA, in collaboration with various stakeholders such as Pacific International Lines (PIL), Lloyd’s Register and Microsoft, has completed the proof of concepts for the use of blockchain for ship registration and robotic process automation (RPA) for the issuance of crew and ship certificates.

“We will continue to explore the use of these new technologies and implement them by the third quarter of 2019,” Tan said.

Tan’s replacement at the MPA, Quah Ley Hoon, takes over on January 1.

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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