Update from the Cruise Europe chairman on the Blue Port project
At the Cruise Europe (CE) AGM in St Petersburg in April 2018, the chairman Captain Michael McCarthy outlined how it would be in the interests of CE as an organisation to retain an ‘Observer and Contributor Status’ to the Atlantic Blue Ports EU project.
The aim is to contribute to the many important environmental challenges facing the cruise industry and ports through port reception facilities (PRF) for ballast, oily waste and scrubber waste from exhaust gas cleaning systems, in many cases retrofitted to many vessels.
Designing and investing in ‘ideal’ port reception and treatment facilities requires immediate regional and trans-national government support as the demand is growing for such port services including scrubber waste, hydrocarbon waste and ballast waters.
ISSUES UNDER THE BLUE PORT PROJECT
The amended Sulphur Directive (SD) required that member states took measures to ensure that the sulphur content of marine fuels used in Sulphur Emission Control Areas (SECAs) does not exceed 0.10% as from January 1 2015. However, the SD provides that member states should allow the application of alternative SOx emission abatement techniques. One of these is the use of exhaust gas cleaning systems (EGCS), known as scrubbers.
In a nutshell, this involves cleaning the engine exhaust with water and discharging the wash water either to the sea (open-loop scrubbers) or to port facilities (closed-loop scrubbers). The text of the SD requires that scrubbers comply with an IMO standard (2) which sets certain minimum performance values for the washwater.
However, a debate had arisen as to the effect of the SD provisions concerning the use of scrubbers vis-à-vis WFD (Water Framework Directive) obligations. For example, some of the pollutants reported in the washwater are polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are priority hazardous substances under the WFD.
The SD makes no reference to the WFD and vice versa. The two directives pursue different but complementary objectives: one relates to reducing emissions of SOx, while the other inter alia relates to protecting and improving the aquatic environment. The WFD’s objectives include the prevention of deterioration and the achievement of good chemical status.
The primary intention of the SD is to encourage the use of low-sulphur fuel in maritime transport and this involves a considerable investment in new or retrofitted engine technology by ship owners. The SD permits the use of scrubbers as an alternative means of achieving its objective on SOx emissions.
However, the possibility of allowing the use of scrubbers does not prevail over European Union (EU) legislation to safeguard Europe’s waters. In other words, the SD does not add a new exemption to the binding environmental objectives of the WFD which have to be met by national authorities. Therefore, when applying the provisions of the SD which permit the use of scrubbers under the conditions specified by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), WFD obligations remain applicable in relation to water quality and the progressive reduction/phase-out of pollutant emissions.
In that context, the national authorities are best placed to determine whether the operation of scrubbers is likely to affect the achievement of WFD objectives, and to take appropriate measures. From the available information, it appears that the majority of the SECAs bordering member states have not yet decided on possibly limiting the discharge of scrubber washwater beyond the IMO standard to ensure compatibility with the WFD.
This legal uncertainty may affect the use of already installed and approved scrubbers, and possibly complicate future investment decisions of shipowners. Under the European Sustainable Shipping Forum (ESSF) 5, it was decided to collect more information about the exact characteristics of the scrubber washwater from shipowners already using this abatement equipment on board. This should provide more information concerning the use of scrubbers vis-à-vis WFD obligations.
The SD permits the use of scrubbers under the conditions specified by the IMO as a possible means of compliance with the 0.10% sulphur in fuel requirement that entered into force on January 1 2015 for ships operating in the EU SECAs and for ships at berth in all EU ports.
At the same time, the recitals of the 2012 amendment of the SD and the associated Impact Assessment make it clear that the use of scrubbers needs to be compatible with the EU’s broader environmental protection objectives, notably those in relation to the protection of the marine ecosystem and that their use should not lead to a transfer of the pollution problem from air to water. Hence the use of scrubbers in EU waters, including the discharge of washwater, must not hamper any EU coastal state from complying with the binding obligations set in the WFD.
The commission believes that at this stage it is still uncertain as to what extent the discharge of scrubber washwater would jeopardise compliance with the WFD obligations. However, it is reported that there is increasing evidence from recent studies and analyses of washwater samples of existing scrubbers that the washwater contains PAHs and heavy metals (eg vanadium, zinc, cadmium, lead and nickel) in potentially larger quantities than initially thought. In this context it should also be recognised that the IMO Exhaust Gas Cleaning System guidelines do not contain any detailed discharge requirements as regards suspended particulate matter, including heavy metals and ash, rather a general obligation ‘to minimise’ these pollutants.
The commission believes that while the number of existing ships currently equipped with scrubbers is not likely to substantially affect the achievement of the status objectives of the WFD, the likely future increase in the number of ships equipped with scrubbers in view of the entry-into-force of the 2020 0.5% sulphur cap, their possible concentration in certain sensitive sea areas (eg ports and estuaries) and the cumulative effect of the washwater discharge, do require a precautionary approach which should be considered in the forward-looking parts of the River Basin Management Plans and ‘programmes of measures’.
Every port is unique (river estuaries, closed/open docks, amount of ships, type of ships, amount of ships with scrubbers) and a common approach might be hard to find. The absence of harmonised rules in Europe might distort the market for ports (ports with more stringent regulations).
In case a demonstrated need arises in the future, the discharge of washwater may be restricted in selected areas (ie ports) to comply with the objectives of the WFD. The process will be coordinated between the relevant authorities (environment, maritime and transport). Possible restrictions should seek not to punish early movers.
It does not make real sense to purify sulphur from exhaust gas in order to achieve cleaner air and then directly release sulphur into surface water. Discharging of scrubber washwater into surface water should be considered in the same way as discharging wastewater into surface water – it has to be treated to conform within the set limit values of pollutants before discharging into surface water. Dilution is not a solution.
During 2018, Cruise Europe member ports were contacted and feedback requested on the regulations related to use of open-loop scrubbers in their ports. Are their water quality levels, and control processes, defined and if so, is it at international/national or local level? The general feedback from CE members varied from country to country with the following replies:
-Open-loop scrubbers are allowed in a large number of ports
-However, some individual ports recommend/instruct shipowners to use closed-loop scrubbers, but so far have not made this mandatory
-Many ports are carrying out sediment cleanup operation in the main cruise quay area which may lead to more strict requirements regarding scrubber washwater
-German regulations do not allow open-loop scrubber systems in their river ports. Ships are only allowed to use the closed-loop system with a buffer tank, which may only be emptied at sea
-Some ports have a bonus system on harbour dues for environmentally-friendly ships as they try to promote ships to use cleaner engines and fuels
-Some ports prohibit the discharge of exhaust gas scrubber washwater, enacted under the WFD Habitats Directive (Directive 92/43/EEC) & Water Framework Directive
BALLAST WATER MANAGEMENT CONVENTION
The International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments (BWM Convention – Ballast Water Management) entered into force on September 8 2017.
Adopted by the IMO in 2004, the measure for environmental protection aims to stop the spread of potentially invasive aquatic species in ships ballast water and requires vessels to manage their ballast water to remove, render harmless, or avoid the uptake or discharge of aquatic organisms and pathogens within ballast water and sediments. Initially, there will be two different standards, corresponding to these two options.
The D-1 standard requires ships to exchange their ballast water in open seas, away from coastal waters. Ideally, this means at least 200nm from land and in water at least 200m deep.
The D-1 Standard will continue to 2022 and must:
-Comply to D-2 Standard by 2022
-Or the 2nd Renewal of the International Oil Pollution Prevention (IOPP) certificate which is valid for five years.
D-2 is a performance standard which specifies the maximum amount of viable organisms allowed to be discharged, including specified indicator microbes harmful to human health.
New ships must meet the D-2 standard from September 8 2017 while existing ships must initially meet the D-1 standard. An implementation timetable for the D-2 standard has been agreed, based on the date of the ship’s IOPP certificate renewal survey, which must be undertaken at least every five years.
Eventually, all ships will have to conform to the D-2 standard. For most ships, this involves installing special equipment approved by national authorities, according to a process developed by IMO. Systems have to be tested in a landbased facility and on board ships to prove that they meet the performance standard set out in the treaty. These could, for example, include systems which make use of filters and ultraviolet light or electro chlorination.
To date, more than 60 ballast water treatment systems have been given type approval and as of September 2017, the treaty has been ratified by more than 60 countries, representing more than 70% of world merchant shipping tonnage. However, shipowners are asking which system they should buy, that it is fully compliant during Port State Control inspection and will it pass the more stringent United States approval regime for treatment equipment which requires all ships that discharge ballast water in US waters to use a treatment system approved by the US Coast Guard (USCG).
However, because no systems have yet been approved, ships already required to comply with the US regulations have either been granted extensions to the dates for fitting the required treatment systems or else permitted to install a USCG accepted Alternate Management System (AMS), in practice a system type-approved in accordance with the current IMO guidelines.
This impasse in the US is a particular concern for operators that have installed ultraviolet (UV) systems with the International Chamber of Shipping saying that the situation has been compounded by the USCG announcing, at the end of last year, that it will not accept the methodology used by other IMO member states to approve UV treatment systems when assessing the number of viable organisms in treated ballast water.
ESPO PUBLISHED ITS POSITION PAPER ON THE PRFs FOR SHIP WASTE (May 9 2018)
For European ports, ship waste has been one of the main environmental priorities, as indicated in the European Sea Ports Organisation (ESPO) 2017 Sustainability Report. In its position paper on the revision of the Port Reception Facilities (PRFs) directive, ESPO welcomed the commission proposal and its objective to build upon the substantial progress achieved under the existing directive.
European ports support, in particular, the proposal’s objectives to increase efficiency and reduce administrative burden. The new directive also makes sure that efficient but responsible regime for managing ship waste is encouraged, in line with the ‘polluter pays’ principle.
“European ports recognise that providing the right incentives is essential and port authorities are certainly willing to contribute. However, introducing a fee system whereby ships could deliver unreasonable amounts of garbage, including dangerous waste for 100% fixed fee, would be a severe and unacceptable divergence from the ‘polluter pays’ principle. It risks to discourage tackling waste at the source by reducing waste volumes on board, which has been the cornerstone of the EU waste policy,” says ESPO’s secretary general Isabelle Ryckbost.
ESPO therefore proposes to set a limit on waste covered by the 100% fixed fee. The fixed (flat) fee should cover normal quantities of waste delivered by a certain type and size of ship. Ports should be allowed to charge on top of that if unreasonable quantities are delivered. Furthermore, dangerous waste, which usually needs special and costly treatment, should not be covered by the 100% indirect fee. European ports believe, moreover, that any provisions leading to better enforcement of the obligation for ships to deliver waste at shore are welcome. The alignment of specific elements of the directive with the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) is supported by ESPO.
European ports also welcome that new types of waste, such as scrubber waste, have been addressed by the proposal.
In a recent presentation at the Cruise Summit in Madrid, Ms E Mallach of ASD-Law gave a very interesting paper on ‘Cruising to Sustainability’.
She highlighted and summarised many of the issues and challenges:
-The pollution challenge involves climate change at the end of a chain of environmental challenges including air and water pollution through gases and waste
– In April 2018, IMO Marine Environmental Protection Committee adopted a strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from shipping by at least 50% by 2050
-The legal framework on compliant fuels, EGCS/scrubbers, LNG and fuel cells.
The demand is continuing to grow for PRFs worldwide and this project, @BluePorts, addresses an important environmental challenge. The essence of this project is to identify solutions and ‘hardware’ that can be utilised in tackling the discharge of ‘harmful substances’ into our oceans. In order to achieve this we need to motivate the maritime community to stop discharge at sea. We can do this by designing in consensus to the Blue Port Services for 2020 and beyond. Very often perception is reality and, in particular, as the word ‘sustainability’ is on every persons mind.
There is no doubt that the cruiselines are ‘ahead of the curve’ and often go beyond compliance when it comes to ship and fuel technology. They are the leaders in the field on newbuilding technology and innovation, ship designs and environmental advances. We often hear the words ‘clean ships in clean ports’. This emphasises the great work being done but cruising is paying the price for its visibility.
We see that every day and it highlights the importance of handling the many issues in a coordinative and cooperative way to ensure the ‘sustainability’ of the cruise sector. Cruiseships can only survive in a clean environment as they visit splendid locations throughout the world, including many World Heritage sites, and this highlights the importance of keeping those locations ‘splendid’.
These often-quoted words sum up the Blue Port project: “The sea is our greatest asset, the sea is our home”.