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Exhaust Gas Cleaning Systems

Annex VI of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL Annex VI) allows ships to use exhaust gas cleaning systems (EGCS) to comply with the 0.50 per cent m/m sulphur fuel oil limit that will take effect from 1 January 2020.

Australia’s approach to exhaust gas cleaning systems

As a party to MARPOL Annex VI, Australia permits the use of EGCS to comply with the low sulphur fuel oil limit, provided the:

  • system is approved by the ship’s flag State, or a recognised organisation appointed by the flag State
  • system is operated in accordance with IMO requirements, including the IMO 2015 Guidelines for Exhaust Gas Cleaning Systems (resolution MEPC.259(68))
  • crew are trained on the use of the system and the system is kept in good working order, with maintenance up to date and monitoring devices fully operational
  • EGCS approval documents, as well as operational and maintenance records for the EGCS are maintained on board the vessel and made available for inspection upon Port State Control Officer (PSCO) request. 
  • following information is provided to AMSA at EGCS@amsa.gov.au before arrival at the first Australian port:
    • Ship name (in email subject title)
    • IMO number
    • Arrival port
    • Arrival date
    • EGCS Scheme A or Scheme B approval
    • Make and model of EGCS
    • Open-loop, closed-loop or hybrid-type system
    • Results of all wash water testing that has been undertaken in accordance with Appendix 3 of the IMO 2015 Guidelines for Exhaust Gas Cleaning Systems.
      • Wash water testing should be conducted upon commissioning of the EGCS and repeated every twelve months, as a minimum, for a period of two years. Ships may be directed not to discharge wash-water from an EGCS in Australian waters if this data, or evidence that samples have been taken for analysis, cannot be provided to AMSA before arrival at the first Australian port.

Any EGCS found to be non-compliant with IMO guidelines in any respect (including but not limited to the wash water discharge criteria) may be prohibited from use in Australian waters.

Further information on Australia’s approach to the use of an EGCS to support compliance with the 2020 low sulphur limit can be found in Marine Notice 5/2019.

EGCS wash water

Further work is being undertaken through the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and by AMSA to research the potential long-term impacts of cumulative wash water discharges, including in areas with high shipping density and with poor tidal flushing.

Work by the IMO

The IMO 2015 Guidelines for Exhaust Gas Cleaning Systems outlines requirements for the testing, certification and verification of EGCS, including wash water discharge and monitoring criteria. The IMO is currently reviewing the guidelines and an updated version is expected to be released in 2020. We are actively contributing to this review and have been consulting with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) and the States and Northern Territory to inform our views.

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 wash water from EGCS on the environment. GESAMP will provide the IMO with a report on the outcomes of this work in February 2020 through the IMO's Pollution Prevention and Response Sub-Committee (PPR). PPR will also commence work to evaluate and harmonise rules and guidance on discharges from EGCS. This work will address concerns over the potential negative impact on the marine environment and the measures that have been put in place in some areas to prohibit wash water discharge. This work is anticipated to conclude in 2021.

Work by AMSA

AMSA considers that any prohibition on the discharge of EGCS wash water should be supported by sound scientific studies and evidence-based data.

Initial advice from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) indicates that dilutions of wash water discharge by the receiving environment will adequately reduce all contaminant concentrations to below water quality guidelines applied in Australia and New Zealand.

AMSA is commissioning further research on the cumulative effects of EGCS wash water discharges to identify any potential long-term impacts for the Australian marine environment. To support this work, AMSA may take samples of EGCS wash water from ships in Australian ports and waters. The outcomes of this research will inform whether any future restrictions on the use of EGCS in Australian waters may be required.

Last updated: 

Tuesday 24 December 2019