Restrictions on discharge of scrubber wash water take effect

March 1, 2022

The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority’s new restrictions on the discharge of scrubber wash water at the Port of Vancouver go into effect today, March 1, 2022.

Under the new guidelines formally outlined in the port authority’s Port Information Guide, ships at berth or at anchor within the Port of Vancouver are prohibited from discharging scrubber wash water. To meet these new requirements, ships must either hold their scrubber wash water on board, switch to low-sulphur fuel, or connect to shore power, which is available at our Canada Place, Deltaport, and Centerm terminals.

Scrubber wash water is the byproduct of ship exhaust gas cleaning systems, which are commonly known as “scrubbers.” Scrubbers are used to remove sulphur and other contaminants from ships’ fuel exhaust to comply with the International Maritime Organization’s 2020 regulation limiting sulphur content in marine fuel. When scrubber wash water is released into the marine environment, it can have toxic impacts on marine life due to the presence of pollutants such as metals, hydrocarbons, and sulphurous and nitrous acids, which can accumulate in the food web and negatively impact the health of marine ecosystems.

The port authority is federally mandated to enable Canada’s trade through the Port of Vancouver, while protecting the environment and considering local communities. In 2019, the port authority commissioned a third-party study to assess the impacts of scrubber wash water on local ecosystems within the Port of Vancouver. This study found that the discharge of scrubber wash water could result in levels of certain contaminants that exceed thresholds set for the protection of aquatic life. As a result, in 2021, the port authority advised industry, Indigenous groups and other stakeholders of its intention to implement restrictions on the discharge of scrubber wash water.

On November 24, 2021, the port authority issued a notice of amendment to its Port Information Guide that outlined proposed restrictions on the discharge of scrubber wash water within port waters, among other amendments. Following the formal public comment period from November 24 to January 8, the port authority reviewed comments received and responded in a consideration report, which is available on our website. Full details of the new requirements are outlined in our Port Information Guide, which sets out localized practices and procedures to promote safe and efficient navigation within the waters of the Port of Vancouver, while supporting efforts to protect the marine environment.

In addition to restricting the discharge of scrubber wash water while ships are at berth or at anchor, the port authority plans to implement two additional phases of restrictions on scrubbers at the Port of Vancouver. The second phase of restrictions will prohibit the discharge of scrubber wash water in all waters within the port authority’s jurisdiction, while the third phase will fully prohibit the use of scrubber systems within the Port of Vancouver. The timing and details of these additional phases of restrictions will be determined following further engagement with industry, government, Indigenous groups and other stakeholder groups on the environmental impacts and safety considerations related to scrubber use.

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