March 27, 2019

Open-Loop Scrubber Proponents, Led by CSA 2020, Continue to Dominate the News Narrative for the Time Being

Holland & Knight Transportation Blog
J. Michael Cavanaugh

For background information regarding open-loop scrubber environmental studies by the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transportation and Tourism (MLIT) and Carnival Cruise Line, refer to our previous blog post.

Additional major ship owners, such as Economou's TMS and DryShips, have announced they are proceeding with scrubber orders specifically because of the highly favorable Japanese and Carnival Cruise Line's scrubber studies released in recent weeks. Other owners have placed major scrubber orders recently, and the pro-scrubber group CSA 2020 membership has jumped from 25 to 35 companies. While the IMO has indicated willingness to undertake further discussion and studies about scrubbers and the criteria for wash water discharge, the IMO discussion at the recently concluded PPR6 meeting also strongly suggested that any future revision of the scrubber rules and wash water discharge standards should be coupled with "grandfather" rights to protect ship owners who have already invested in scrubbers meeting the current IMO requirements. Given the timeline for the IMO's decision making process, it is likely any further revisions to the MARPOL Annex VI requirements would not be decided until 2020 or later.

Carnival Cruises has now announced that it will conduct its own additional studies of the environmental impact of open-loop scrubbers. Based on the favorable results of the test data to date, reviewed by DNV GL, Carnival appears confident that additional analysis of discharge water samples will be positive. The strategy highlights the obvious distinction that the reports on which the European Commission, German Government and others base their requests for more studies are not really "studies" but rather preliminary summaries. At this point the only significant scrubber discharge water data set available is Carnival's.

On the port state front, Norway has announced an open-loop scrubber ban in five "heritage fjords," and is studying expansion of this ban to include other types of scrubbers and additional fjords. However, the Norwegian action does not appear to extend to major commercial ports or coastal areas other than the fjords.

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