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Environmental impact of scrubbers insufficiently studied, warns Veniamis

Theodore Veniamis has warned that exhaust gas scrubbers were allowed by the International Maritime Organization as an exception to the rule of burning 0.5% sulphur fuels from the start of 2020 without adequate evaluation of their environmental impact. The Greek owners’ leader says that the polarisation of attitudes towards scrubbers is having a divisive effect on the shipping community, although he has praised the IMO for ‘political courage’ in looking at safety concerns raised by the industry

Greek shipowners’ leader laments that ‘minority’ alternative to using low-sulphur fuels is having a divisive impact on industry

THE Union of Greek Shipowners has again criticised legislation allowing exhaust gas scrubbers as an alternative to using low-sulphur fuel after January 1, 2020.

Speaking at the UGS’ annual meeting this week, president Theodore Veniamis said that allowing scrubbers was a divisive measure and one that had been insufficiently studied beforehand.

“No way the environmental footprint [of scrubber use] has been evaluated as it should have been,” he said.

Even before the passing of the new 2020 regulations, the UGS backed “the principle that desulphurisation of fuels should be carried out ashore rather than on the ships”.

A significant number of prominent Greek owners are among those who have already invested in scrubbers. But Mr Veniamis said his role as UGS president required him to “defend the interests of the majority”.

He said that “unfortunately the use of scrubbers has created a polarisation between the wider shipping industry and the minority of shipowners who already have or intend to equip their vessels with scrubbers”.

Mr Veniamis delivered his remarks at virtually the same time as Brussels issued a new report calling for the International Maritime Organization to change its rules on scrubbers.

“Developments in recent months, where an increasing number of states have banned open-loop scrubbers in their ports, unfortunately confirm that this is a scientifically unjustified legal provision that will deeply concern shipping in the coming period,” he warned.

However, Mr Veniamis praised the IMO for having the “political courage” to address, albeit belatedly, concerns about the safety issues raised by industry over the introduction of new 2020-compliant fuels.

He said that the European Commission “in view of its long-standing high environmental objectives” should have been quicker to face the safety issue and related implications for the protection of the marine environment.

“This has not happened, but there are indications that it is at least beginning to recognise the problem,” said Mr Veniamis.

“Our requirement was and remains that the marine fuels we will use after 2020 not only comply with the required sulphur content but are suitable for use without risking the safety of ships, crew and environmental protection,” he said.

“We have the right but also the obligation as a responsible industry to raise our objections and to demand timely consideration of all the parameters of the issue.”

The UGS has called for other key stakeholders such as classification societies, engine manufacturers, shipyards and insurers as well as shipowners, to play their part in ensuring ships can operate safely with the new fuels.

“The shipowner is not responsible for the quality of the machines, nor for the quality and safety of the fuels supplied to it for the operation of its ships,” Mr Veniamis said.

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