That day could come by March of 2022 and the busy Port of Vancouver anticipates that cruise traffic will return to pre-COVID levels shortly thereafter. Unfortunately, absent of an outright ban on scrubber discharges within the port, little can be done to protect it. Ironically for many cruises, Vancouver is the next stop after Seattle, where scrubber discharges are already prohibited. As such, it is the prime dumping grounds for scrubber washwater and all its toxic components.
Countless studies have proved that those toxic components including PAHs, particulate matter and heavy metals aren’t substances to take a risk with. If we know PAHs are dangerous alone, why would they suddenly be safe in scrubber washwater?
It is not just the Port of Vancouver that will see significant amounts of scrubber washwater as cruises resume. Elsewhere in Canada, many other ports will meet a similar fate. Cruise ships will contribute nearly 1.5 Mt of scrubber washwater to Sydney, Nova Scotia on Canada’s East Coast. Collectively, the ports of Quebec and Montreal can expect about 1 Mt of discharges. Researchers estimate that over 90% of this will come from cruise ships. That is in stark contrast to the Port of Sept-Îles where an open-loop scrubber discharge ban is already in place preventing pollution of this pristine area.
It should serve as a lesson learned. A ban on scrubber discharges in Canadian waters would protect them from an immeasurable amount of damage. While there has been some talk of a nation-wide scrubber washwater ban, no real action has been taken. Those in favor of prohibiting scrubber discharges have an up-hill battle. Their opponents with deep pockets and entrenched economical interest claim that there isn’t enough evidence to warrant such a call, but in reality, research on scrubbers is only growing. The results of many recent scrubber studies are far from reassuring and that doesn’t even consider the decades of research we already have on the individual components in the washwater. To reiterate, countless studies have proven that PAHs, particulate matter and heavy metals should not be put into our waters. Why would we allow it to be pumped into our oceans via scrubber washwater? Moreover, is anyone considering the implication of these chemicals in terms of 1.5 Mt? We doubt the holdouts have an answer to those questions.
There is some good news. No sail-orders have bought us some time. As long as cruises are prohibited from sailing during the pandemic, ports throughout Canada are protected. Once cruises resume however, that protection will be lost unless we stop it. Canada needs to reconsider their scrubber ban while they still have the chance.