South Africa says yes to all types of approved scrubbers

IMO2020 - shipping and freight resourcePreviously I wrote about IMO2020, how it will work and the effects it could have on shipping..

In 2016, at the 70th session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) meeting in London, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) took a landmark decision setting 1st January 2020 as the implementation date for a significant reduction in the sulphur content of the bunker fuel used by ships..

As per this decision, MARPOL Annex VI has been revised, lowering the current global limit for sulphur content of marine fuels from 3.50% to 0.50% as from the 1st of January 2020..

IMO advised several methods through which ships can meet lower sulphur emission standards..

  • Using low-sulphur compliant fuel oil;
  • Using gas as a fuel as when ignited it leads to negligible sulphur oxide emissions;
  • Using methanol as an alternative fuel as being used on some short sea services;
  • Using exhaust gas cleaning systems or “scrubbers”, which “clean” the emissions before they are released into the atmosphere.

All member states who are signatories to this decision have to follow this regulation to ensure that ships operate using compliant fuels of 0.50% sulphur or less from 1 January 2020..

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If ships use high-sulphur bunker fuel after 1st Jan 2020, these ships should be fitted with sulphur scrubbers which comes in three forms:

  1. closed-loop scrubbers (exhaust gases are washed and harmful substances collected in a tank which is emptied in port for appropriate further treatment);
  2. open-loop scrubbers (exhaust gases are washed and the washing water, together with the harmful substances that it contains, are discharged into the sea); and
  3. hybrid scrubbers (which can be set for either open-loop or closed-loop operation)

While open-loop scrubbers comply with the requirements of IMO2020 and helps to reduce emissions, its use comes with side effects such as heavy metals and sulphur, etc which end up in the sea together with washing water..

Many countries like China, Singapore have banned the discharge of wash water from open-loop scrubbers in their coastal waters..

Hybrid scrubbers may also be considered to be problematic if they are used on an open-loop basis..

Therefore, of the three options, the only option that is genuinely environmentally friendly  is the closed-loop type because in the closed-loop type, there is no emissions into the air or water provided that the waste is treated after collection in ports..

The IMO regulates all these matters extensively (IMO resolution MEPC.184 (59)) and has developed the Guidance on the Development of a Ship Implementation Plan (SIP) for the consistent implementation of the 0.50% sulphur limit under MARPOL Annex VI (MEPC.1/Circ.878) for shipowners..

As part of the effective implementation of IMO2020 0.50% Sulphur Cap, South African Maritime and Safety Authority (SAMSA) announced that South Africa has approved the use of all types of approved scrubbers..

SAMSA also advised that ships must operate using compliant fuels of 0.50% sulphur or less from 1st Jan 2020 unless they are provided with an approved ‘equivalent’ means of compliance…

These equivalents can be in the form of LSFO (Low Sulphur Fuel Oil) which includes blended products distillates or residual fuel oil-based, HSFO (High Sulphur Fuel Oil) but only on ships fitted with scrubbers or ships using LNG, Biofuels or similar products..

IMO2020 Sulphur Cap - Low sulphur surcharge - shipping and freight resource

Commenting on this development, Ian Adams, Executive Director of the Clean Shipping Alliance 2020, said “We are delighted that South Africa has approved the use of open-loop systems in its waters. The use of EGCS improves substantially local air quality and we hope other ports will come to welcome the technology. 

We encourage all port authorities to seek out the available independent studies that provide detailed analysis of wash water discharges and describe the meaningful health benefits that reduced particle emissions can bring to their regions.”

According to Clean Shipping Alliance 2020, more than 80% of the 2,500 or so ships requiring scrubber installations will be selecting open loop versions of the scrubber technology..

As per SAMSA, the International Bunker Industry Association has expressed confidence that the compliant fuel will be available in South African Ports by 1st Jan 2020..


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