China Bans Discharge from Open-Loop Scrubbers in Some Waters

ship emissions
Photo: By Mr Nai / Shutterstock

For now, the ban applies only to wash water discharges in inland ECAs, port waters in domestic emission control areas, and in Bohai Bay, but a full ban on open-loop scrubbers could be adopted soon. 

reuters logoBEIJING/SINGAPORE, Jan 8 (Reuters) – China’s maritime authority has banned the discharge of “wash water” used in ships to strip hazardous sulphur emissions from engine exhaust gases from Jan. 1 for some ports, according to a government document reviewed by Reuters on Tuesday.

The ban on water discharge from so-called open-loop scrubbers is part of an effort to prepare for International Maritime Organization (IMO) rules that will ban ships from using fuel oil with a sulphur content of more than 0.5 percent from 2020, compared with 3.5 percent now, unless they are equipped with exhaust “scrubbers” to clean up sulphur emissions.

China’s Maritime Safety Administration (MSA) said in a policy document dated on Dec. 29 that it would ban wash water discharge at some river and coastal ports in emission control areas (ECAs), where ships are already limited to burning only fuel with a sulphur content of 0.5 percent.

The ban took effect on the first day of 2019, MSA said, adding that ship operators are also not allowed to discharge any residue from wash water or burn it on the ships.

China said last September it would impose tighter rules from Oct. 1, 2018, on emissions from vessels in and around the ports in the Yangtze River Delta, with plans to later extend this ECA to include the country’s entire coastline.

MSA said in the document dated Dec. 29 that a timeline to expand the ban of wash water discharge to more coastal ports would be announced “at an appropriate time”.

To comply with the ban on wash water discharge in the designated waters, shippers will have to switch to using a closed-loop scrubber system, or switch to using fuels with a lower sulphur content.

Open-loop scrubbers use seawater to capture sulphur from engine exhausts before discharging this “wash water” back into the ocean after treatment. In closed-loop systems, scrubbing is performed using water treated with additives, recycling the liquid internally. Hybrid scrubbers are a combination of both.

China’s effective ban on open-loop scrubbers mirrors a similar move by Singapore, which in late November said it would ban the discharge of wash water from Jan. 1, 2020.

Singapore is the world’s biggest hub for ship refuelling, or bunkering. Some Chinese port cities are also increasingly targeting the multi-billion dollar bunkering industry, taking steps to show that they will be ready to meet the new IMO fuel standards. (Reporting by Meng Meng in BEIJING, and Chen Aizhu and Roslan Khasawneh in SINGAPORE; Editing by Tom Hogue)

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2019.