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Guidance on the use of exhaust gas cleaning systems (scrubbers) for ports, regional authorities and ships

There are global concerns over the potential impacts of scrubber contaminants on the marine environment. This page has the current guidance on the use of these systems in New Zealand territorial waters.

The Ministry for the Environment supports the use of precaution 

The Ministry for the Environment supports the use of precaution by ships operating scrubbers in territorial waters, whilst we undertake work to establish the nature and scale of the risks and develop a national position on these systems. 

Our guidance to this effect is as follows, and was released as part of wider messaging through Maritime NZ at the end of 2019. 

While the guidance is non-statutory, we encourage industry to implement the following measures until work currently underway in respect to the use of scrubbers has been completed.

We request that all ships carrying scrubbers and operating in New Zealand’s territorial waters engage with the relevant port and regional authorities, and as a precautionary measure that where possible they avoid discharging scrubber effluent close to shore by utilising alternate options such as:

  • preparing for entry into New Zealand waters by carrying compliant low sulphur fuel in order to use this when operating in sensitive environments, as identified by the relevant regional authorities. 
  • operating closed loop scrubber functionality in zero discharge mode and retaining any effluent on board until able to dispose of at the next available port facility.
  • discharging any open loop scrubber washwater outside territorial waters.

Work happening under the IMO in relation to scrubbers

In 2019, the IMO requested that the United Nations’ Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP) establish a task team to undertake a review of all relevant scientific literature and oversee a modelling study to assess the impacts of washwater from scrubbers on the environment. 

In February 2020 GESAMP provided the IMO with a report on the outcomes of this work at a meeting of the IMO's Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR) Sub-Committee. This meeting approved the start of work to evaluate and harmonise rules and guidance on discharges from scrubbers, and updated the current guidelines on the use of these systems. These updated guidelines will be presented at the next meeting of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) for adoption.

The work to be undertaken by GESAMP will address concerns over the potential negative impact on the marine environment, and is anticipated to conclude in 2021.

Find out more about Annex VI and our marine environment

The new Annex VI sulphur limit [International Maritime Organisation website]

Current IMO guidelines on the use of scrubbers (PDF, 374 KB) [International Maritime Organisation website]

Our activities at sea are affecting the marine environment, see Issue 3 in Our Marine Environment 2019