Sweden Bans Scrubber Discharges in its Waters

Scrubber retrofit in process on a ro-pax ferry (file image)
Scrubber retrofit in process on a ro-pax ferry (file image)

Published Jun 30, 2024 10:44 PM by The Maritime Executive


Sweden has joined the list of countries seeking to ban scrubber water discharges in their waters. In a proposal issued last week, the Swedish government wants to start prohibiting discharges from open loop scrubbers beginning July 1, 2025. This will be followed by a ban on discharges from all other scrubbers from January 1, 2029. The ban will be applicable in Swedish territorial waters.

While the IMO’s global cap on sulfur content in fuel oil was lauded as the right step towards clean shipping, it inadventently led to widespread use of exhaust gas cleaning systems, popularly known as scrubbers. In addition to washed-out sulphur, other contaminants such as heavy metals and oil residues have been found in the discharge wastewater.

In commenting on the scrubber discharge ban, Sweden’s Infrastructure Minister Andreas Carlson said that most Swedish shipowners are already using low sulphur fuel oil (LSFO). For this reason, it became imperative to extend to all ships in Swedish maritime territory.

“Hopefully, these national bans will fuel discussions on regional bans in the Baltic, the Northeast Atlantic and the entire EU. The IMO need to move forward on this topic as well, although I think a global ban is quite a few steps away. There are intermediate steps to make nevertheless,” said Mattias Rust, Deputy Director, Ministry of Rural Affairs and Infrastructure, Sweden.

Recent research by the Swedish Chalmers University of Technology estimated that there are more than 200 million cubic meters of environmentally hazardous scrubber water discharged into the Baltic Sea annually. Other countries in the Baltic region, such as Denmark and Finland, have also imposed limits on scrubber water discharge in their waters.