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China bans discharge from open-loop scrubbers at some ports

Beijing - China’s maritime authority has banned the discharge of “wash water” used in ships to strip hazardous sulfur emissions from engine exhaust gases from Jan. 1 for some ports

Beijing - China’s maritime authority has banned the discharge of “wash water” used in ships to strip hazardous sulfur 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 sulfur 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 sulfur 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 sulfur 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 sulfur content.

Open-loop scrubbers use seawater to capture sulfur 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.

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