Port of Vancouver Scrubber Washwater Ban Takes Effect

March 16, 2022
Public Relations

Port of Vancouver Scrubber Washwater Ban Takes Effect

The waters surrounding the Port of Vancouver just got a whole lot cleaner. New restrictions issued by the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority now ban the discharge of washwater from scrubbers within port limits. According to research from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), this will eliminate an estimated 9.5 million tonnes of washwater pollution in the port each year. That is a major victory. Prior to the ban taking effect, the Port of Vancouver ranked fourth worldwide for total scrubber discharges. Now it is reasonable to assume it wouldn’t even rank in the top 100.

When we detailed the Port of Vancouver’s proposal for a scrubber washwater ban earlier this year, we were concerned that a legal loophole would drastically undermine the ban’s impact. At the time, the wording of the ban allowed for scrubber discharges that came from main engines. Although most ships don’t use main engines while in port and instead rely on axillary engines for power, cruise ships have an atypical engine design. Powered by several smaller engines, the distinction between a main engine and an axillary engine on a cruise ship isn’t always clear. This could have allowed for cruise ships to continue to discharge scrubber washwater in port. Fortunately, the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority amended the ban’s wording to eliminate this loophole before it took effect. This is great news. Remember, ICCT research attributed over 50% of all Port of Vancouver scrubber discharges to cruise ships. Without the change, the ban’s impact would have been severely limited.

The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority further detailed this amendment in a report they issued prior to the ban’s start. In the report, they also justified their reasoning for moving forward with these new restrictions, citing a third-party study that was commissioned on behalf of the port. The study indicated that “the discharge of scrubber wash water could result in levels of certain contaminants – such as cadmium, copper, mercury, and nickel and of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) – that exceed thresholds set for the protection of aquatic life within our jurisdiction.” That isn’t a surprise. These findings correspond with nearly all the scrubber washwater studies we have examined over the years.

Fortunately for the city of Vancouver, this scrubber discharge ban is likely just the beginning of tighter restrictions on scrubber use across Canada. The Vancouver City Council recently issued a unanimous motion to warn the government about the risk of scrubbers. They are pushing for “stronger environmental protections” and suggest “to stop scrubber dumping” and “require cleaner fuels.” The world should take note. Vancouver isn’t willing to take a risk with scrubbers. Why should others? This is the perfect opportunity for more places to follow suite. It is time all coastal communities make the health of the environment and human health a priority.

Vancouver’s new scrubber restrictions mean cleaner waters – International Council on Clean Transportation (theicct.org)

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