More countries ban open loop scrubbers

Once again scrubbers are the topic of conversation thanks to recent news that some countries will ban the use of open loop scrubbers. From 1 Jan this year, China’s Maritime Authority has banned the discharge of ‘wash water’ from open loop scrubbers in an attempt to reduce pollution in coastal areas. The ban affects all rivers and ports along China’s coastline and includes the Bohai Sea. This echoes the initiatives of the Maritime Port Authority of Singapore who will ban open loop scrubber discharge in port waters from 1 Jan 2020, as the IMOs 0.5% global sulphur cap regulations come in to effect. A recent publication from P&I club Gard also shows a map of other countries who are putting together regulations to manage the use of open loop scrubbers, warning that other additional countries are likely to follow suit in the near future. In fact, reports have come to light this week that the port of Fujairah has also banned the use of open loop scrubbers. With Alibra estimates showing that almost 90% of scrubbers installed use ‘open loop’ technology, where does this leave the future of scrubbers with the deadline looming for the IMO’s sulphur cap regulations? 


Open loop scrubber technology is arguably one of the cheaper options that owners and operators can employ in order to meet the new regulations, this technology uses the sea water as wash water and is more cost effective than closed loop and hybrid technologies. Closed loop scrubbers have a larger footprint on board the vessel and require the discharge of scrubber residue when in port. There is also the option of a hybrid scrubber which allows operators to switch from open to closed loop systems, however this technology is often as expensive to install as the closed loop system. Following discussions with technical managers, it seems that there are still plausible countermeasures as is often the case with regulations, in that operators can turn off scrubbers and switch to low sulphur fuels when in restricted areas, ensuring that they still comply with IMO regulations. However, with mounting pressure for shipping to clean up its act, how long until more stringent rules are put in place?

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