Thousands of ships could dump pollutants at sea to avoid dirty fuel ban

(The Guardian, 29 Oct 2018) Owners planning to install ‘emissions cheat’ systems to avoid having to buy cleaner, more expensive fuel.

Thousands of ships are set to install “emissions cheat” systems that pump pollutants into the ocean to beat new international rules banning dirty fuel.

The global shipping fleet is rushing to meet a 2020 deadline imposed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to reduce air pollution by forcing vessels to use cleaner fuel with a lower sulphur content of 0.5%, compared with 3.5% as currently used.

The move comes after growing concerns about the health impacts of shipping emissions. A report in Nature this year said 400,000 premature deaths a year are caused by emissions from dirty shipping fuel, which also account for 14 million childhood asthma cases per year.

But the move to cleaner fuel could see harmful pollutants increasingly dumped at sea.

According to industry analysis seen by the Guardian, between 2,300 and 4,500 ships are likely to install an exhaust gas cleaning system known as a scrubber to meet the regulations on low-sulphur fuel instead of buying the more expensive clean fuel.

The scrubbers allow ship owners to continue buying cheaper high-sulphur fuel, which is washed onboard in the scrubber. In the case of the most used system, known as open loop, the waste water is discharged into the ocean.

External link

The Guardian, 29 Oct 2018: Thousands of ships could dump pollutants at sea to avoid dirty fuel ban