As the International Maritime Organization’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC74) meets this week in London, ten international non-governmental organisations have written to IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim to call for an immediate moratorium on the shipping industry’s use of scrubber technology, or Exhaust Gas Cleaning Systems (EGCS), as an alternative compliance mechanism for current Emissions Control Areas and the looming 2020 fuel sulphur standards. This follows the publication of alarming evidence in a U.S. federal felony criminal case against Carnival Corporation that demonstrated how EGCS systems failed multiple times, leading to significant air and water pollution violations [1,2,3].
“As Carnival Corporation’s criminal debacle has shown, EGCS are not the answer to delivering air pollution reductions for the shipping sector. We are calling on the IMO to take the lead on avoiding the inevitable failures and resulting environmental and health impacts of scrubbers by putting in place a moratorium while the IMO reviews the technology’s marine and air pollution impacts. Fortunately, a moratorium would be relatively easy to implement because a truly reliable compliance mechanism already exists: burning cleaner, low-sulphur fuel,” said Kendra Ulrich, Senior Shipping Campaigner at Stand.earth.
The letter, signed by Stand.earth, Pacific Environment, Transport & Environment, Seas at Risk, Ecodes, Circumpolar Conservation Union, NABU, Friends of the Earth US, Environmental Investigation Agency, and WWF Canada, outlines how Carnival Corporation — the world’s largest cruise operator — is embroiled in serious legal trouble in the United States, following hundreds of environmental violations committed during its first year of probation, for seven felonies it pleaded guilty to in 2016. Dozens of the violations were incidents relating to the use, or failure, of EGCS. These violations were not only committed in US waters, but in Europe, Iceland, and the Bahamas, among other locations, and in Emissions Control Areas (ECAs) where there are strict limits on ship emissions.
The signatories call for the International Maritime Organization to not only place an immediate moratorium on the use of scrubber technology while it reviews the environmental and human health impacts, but to consider removing EGCS as an alternative compliance mechanism set forth in the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) altogether . Removing the loophole would effectively require the cruise and shipping industry to switch to cleaner, low-sulphur fuel in compliance with new global fuel standards in 2020.
“Maritime Emissions Control Areas attempt to protect human health and the environment from some of the most harmful pollutants in ship exhaust. In 2020, we will see a global tightening of the rules for ship fuel. Unfortunately, a glaring loop-hole in the international regulations lets ships avoid switching to cleaner fuels by using scrubbers, also known as ‘emissions cheat systems’. Recently a number of countries have identified red flags arising from their use. Therefore, they should be restricted in line with the precautionary principle,” said Dr. Lucy Gilliam, Shipping and Aviation Officer for Transport & Environment.