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Europe puts pressure on IMO over scrubber rules

A new draft submission to the next MEPC meeting in May 2019 suggests EU countries at the IMO will seek to begin work on establishing harmonised rules on where and how scrubbers can be used

The European Union is suggesting the IMO establish harmonised rules on areas and conditions of scrubber discharge

THE European Union will push for global deliberations to be held on the rules regarding the discharge of waste water, taking into account environmental considerations and regional restrictions, in moves that will add another level of complexity to the ongoing debate around open loop scrubbers.

A submission to the International Maritime Organization’s Marine Environment Protection Committee agreed by EU member states — and seen by Lloyd’s List — asks the IMO to develop a set of harmonised rules on the areas and conditions under which scrubbers can discharge.

“It is proposed that the Committee considers the inclusion of a new output in its programme of work in order to evaluate and harmonize the development of rules and guidance on the discharge of liquid effluents from EGCS, including conditions and areas,” the paper says.

This will be an EU-wide submission to the IMO, giving it substantial weight during negotiations at a meeting in May.

The European Council’s working party on shipping, which is responsible for coordinating the positions of EU governments, endorsed the commission’s proposal this week with a few amendments.

The paper does not make any proposals on the harmonised rules, but only states that they should be established.

“These measures could entail include, but not be limited to, applying stricter discharge criteria, or the prohibition, as appropriate, of exhaust gas cleaning systems water discharges,” it says.

The member states suggest in the submission that the matter should go into the IMO’s post-biennial strategic plan of organisation for 2020-2021 as a matter of urgency and that it should be finalised within two MEPC meetings at the most.

The proposal asks that due consideration be given to companies that have already invested in scrubbers and argues that the sooner the harmonised rules are developed, the smaller the economic damage to shipowners who may be affected by them.

“The co-sponsors consider that the sooner uniform and unambiguous regulatory measures are developed and adopted, the better the potential pollution will be controlled and the less significant the economic impacts will be both on industry and administrations. These measures are therefore considered urgent,” the proposal says.

The proposal comes amid recent high-profile restrictions and prohibitions in the use of scrubbers ahead of the 2020 sulphur cap in a number of crucial jurisdictions.

Global bunkering centres Singapore and Fujairah announced they would ban open loop scrubbers, as did China in its coastal waters.

Individual EU member states are vying for stricter emissions controls elsewhere. France is spearheading an effort at the IMO to designate the Mediterranean Sea as the fifth global sulphur emissions control area, in which sulphur emissions are limited to 0.1% as opposed to the global 0.5% limit coming in 2020.

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