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BPA: Impact of Scrubbers in Harbour Areas Unclear

The lack of data on the impact of open-loop scrubbers on sediments in harbour areas has raised concerns in the ports industry, according to British Ports Association’s Mark Simmonds.

The association “has been following the growing debate on the use of open-loop scrubbers with interest. Our calls for a grown-up debate between ports and the shipping industry has been met with some understandable concern from certain quarters.”

“But we are determined to ensure that any potential impacts that affect port operations should be properly explored. To date, the focus has been firmly on water quality in the open ocean and coastal areas and latterly, ports. The main concern for most ports, however, is impact on sediments in harbour areas and enclosed waterways,” Simmonds explained.

The debate on the effect of open-loop scrubbers on water quality continues, while the more specific debate on the impact on sediments in port areas, particularly ports with enclosed systems, has barely begun.

“Our concern is that the contaminants being removed from ships’ exhaust emissions in ports could build up in sediments, perhaps over many years, making future dredging campaigns more problematic.”

Simmonds noted that the association is “keen to have a sensible conversation” with shipping industry, scrubber manufacturers and regulators regarding the potential risk to the future viability of port operations.

“It may be that the risks are minimal, and that is our hope, but this remains an unknown,” he said, adding that the BPA would like to see “robust evidence that placing these contaminants in the water at berths and in harbour areas will not build up and pose a risk to dredging operations.”

“The ideal solution is that the shipping industry can reassure UK ports that our industry will not be picking up the environmental and economic cost for scrubbers in years to come.”

BPA informed that the UK government’s position is that open-loop scrubbers are an important part of the picture when complying with the sulphur cap and that ports should take decisions individually on a case by case basis.