Status Of Exhaust Gas Cleaning Systems In Turkish Territorial Waters

-Canberk Tuygan

According to MARPOL Annex VI Rule 14, from 1 January 2020, the sulphur content of marine fuels used outside designated Emission Control Areas must be below 0.50 m/m %. MARPOL Annex VI Rule 4 allows the use of an "equivalent" means of compliance (such as a scrubber). Effective from 1 March 2020, the carriage for use of non-compliant fuel on board ships that are not equipped with equivalent means of compliance is also prohibited.

With the letter dated 24.10.2019 and numbered 36712415-160.02-E.78801 of the Republic of Turkey Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure General Directorate of Maritime Affairs, it was reported that exhaust gas cleaning systems (scrubber) will be accepted as an equivalent application within the scope of the 4th rule of MARPOL Annex Vl instead of using suitable fuel for the ships that wish to comply with the sulphur limits.

As it is known, exhaust cleaning systems are a relatively new technology and are divided into two as closed and open systems. If the water used for the system is supplied from the sea, washed and then released back to the sea for the natural cleaning effect of the marine environment, these systems are called open type exhaust gas cleaning systems. However, if the water used in the Exhaust Gas Cleaning System is mixed with some alkaline form, i.e. caustic soda, to neutralise the particles in the exhaust gas and given to the system, these systems are called closed type exhaust gas washing systems. The water used in this system is fresh water and circulates continuously in the system. As can be understood, the closed exhaust system is a more costly system.

In the circular dated 3 February 2020, as in the case of open exhaust cleaning systems, "...some countries may impose local restrictions or complete bans on the discharge of scrubber wash water into the sea on the grounds that it adversely affects the structure of seawater and the natural life of the sea in the light of scientific data. In our country, there are currently no restrictions or prohibitions on the discharge of scrubber washing waters into the sea and scrubber types, and these issues fall within the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Environment and Urbanisation...". However, these statements have created an uncertainty as to whether the use of open exhaust cleaning system is legal or not, and caused a perception as if the function of discharging the wash water of open systems to the sea is not prohibited.

In order to eliminate this confusion, a "reminder" letter dated 06.04.2021 was published by the Ministry of Environment and Urbanisation General Directorate of Environmental Management. The issue reminded in the letter is the provision in subparagraph (b) of Article 23 of the Regulation on Water Pollution Control: "In the seas entering the sovereign territory of Turkey; it is forbidden to discharge garbage, oil and oil derivatives and bilge waters contaminated with them, dirty ballast waters, sludge, slop, oil and similar solid and liquid wastes from ships, all kinds of cargo residues and wastes of aircraft navigating in the airspace over these seas." According to this provision, discharging the wash water from the open exhaust cleaning system into the sea is not in compliance with the Regulation of 2004, which is currently in force.

In brief, the equivalent compliance means permitted to be used in Turkish territorial waters are closed exhaust cleaning systems or open exhaust cleaning systems only if the wastes/sludges generated during the treatment of exhaust cleaning water and collected in the tank are given to the appropriate land facilities against a receipt and recorded in the exhaust gas cleaning system logbook.

It is of great importance for charterers to consider these issues while evaluating the offers of the owners who offer to allocate the ship with HSFO with open scrubber system with a more favourable price instead of LSFO especially in time charter contracts.