China bans open-loop exhaust-cleaners from ports ahead of IMO-led sulfur cap regulations

Monday, 07 January 2019
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China has followed Singapore and banned the use of open-loop exhaust-cleaners from its ports as the International Maritime Organization sulfur cap for fuel comes into force in less than a year, forcing shipowners to adopt cleaner fuel such as LNG or to use the abatement technology.

Shipping companies are currently making preparations to comply with the IMO regulations to reduce air pollution in ports by using cleaner fuel with a lower sulfur content of 0.5 percent compared with the current 3.5 percent limit.

Analysts had said that between 2,500 and 4,500 ships were likely to install an exhaust-gas cleaning system, known as a scrubber, to meet the regulations instead of buying the more expensive low-sulfur fuel or switching to LNG.

Singapore is one of the main transit routes for LNG carriers and is the main Asian proponent of LNG as a bunkering fuel.

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore banned open-loop emission cleaners in December 2018 with the aim of protecting the marine environment.

That’s because open-loop scrubbers use seawater to clean the exhaust. Seawater is supplied through a pipe and while carbon-dioxide dissolves into the water, it creates polluting carbonic acid, and bicarbonate or carbonate ions.

To ensure that the port waters are clean, the discharge of wash water from open-loop exhaust-gas scrubbers in Singapore port waters will be prohibited and now the same rules will apply in the main Chinese ports.

Ships fitted with only open-loop scrubbers calling at the ports will be required to use compliant fuel.

China has adopted the same rules as Singapore and will require ships with hybrid scrubbers to switch to the closed-loop mode of operation when in port.

The Chinese have had three designated Emission Control Areas (ECAs) since 2015. They are the Pearl River and Yangtze River Deltas in southern and eastern china and the Bohai Sea area of northern China.

In these port areas the Chinese authorities have brought in a gradual implementation of the new requirements concerning emissions of air pollutants from ships.

The Chinese Ministry of Transport has now banned open-loop scrubbers from that ECAs that now cover most of China’s coastline.

The latest ship emission regulation document released by the Chinese Ministry of Transport said it had banned ships from discharging wastewater and burning residue from open-loop scrubbers in the coastal and river ECAs, while ships are required to record the details of wastewater and residue disposal.

China has already brought in its own sulfur caps in the main ports on the Yangtze River Delta around Shanghai, southern Jiangsu province and northern Zhejiang province. 

Under the Chinese rules, for the Yangtze River Delta ships must switch to compliant fuel with a sulfur content not exceeding 0.5 percent within one hour of arriving at their berth and burn compliant fuel until not more than one hour prior to departure.

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