In 2015, new Sulphur emission limits entered into force in designated Emission Control Areas (ECAs), which include the North Sea, the Baltic Sea and the English Channel. By 2020 a global Sulphur cap will enter into force, reducing the current 3.50% limit to 0.50%, meaning that all ships will need to radically reduce their Sulphur emissions.
The use of scrubbers has received clear and unambiguous regulatory acceptance as a means to achieve the needed Sulphur emission reductions. Indeed, scrubbers are recognised as an effective solution to reduce emissions under Regulation 4 of MARPOL Annex VI and within the EU Sulphur Directive. The IMO has also developed guidelines for the statutory approval of scrubbers (IMO Resolution MEPC.184(59)) available here.
In addition to reducing Sulphur emissions, scrubbers also help to reduce Particulate Matter (PM) and heavy metals. Whereas an open loop scrubber releases these pollutants into the ocean, a closed loop solution ensures that these substances are kept on board until they can be discharged and handled appropriately in port. In order to carry out a fully environmentally friendly operation, it is of key importance that the waste resulting from the scrubber is correctly and safely disposed of.
When it comes to waste resulting from the scrubbing process, there are currently no specific EU rules. This element of the legislative framework is in fact currently up for review within the context of the revision of the EU Directive on Port Reception Facilities (PRF) launched in January 2018. The European Commission proposal repeals the existing PRF Directive (Directive 2000/59/EC) and seeks to align the EU framework as much as possible with MARPOL.
Specifically, the proposal amends the definition of waste covered by the directive, including waste falling under MARPOL Annex VI (scrubber waste). The advance waste notification form has also been aligned to IMO Circular MEPC/834, and therefore includes exhaust gas cleaning residues. The European Commission proposal is currently being discussed by the European Parliament and Member States.