Cruise-ship pollution initiative actually contributes to problem

$1.5-million pilot ‘scrubber’ project fatally flawed, meeting told
Sunday » October 7 » 2007

Christina Montgomery
The Province

Sunday, October 07, 2007

A $1.5-million pilot project aimed at reducing air pollution from cruise ships – announced with great fanfare in Vancouver this spring – is actually contributing to increased greenhouse gases.

That stunning finding was presented as shipping, environment and labour leaders gathered in Vancouver recently to urge Ottawa to join a global push for mandatory use of cleaner fuels by shipping lines worldwide.

The meeting, hosted by the International Shipowners Association of Canada, came as governments weigh the comparative merits of insisting that all vessels use diesel, the cleanest fuel now widely available, or of easing the effects of dirty bunker fuel with a patchwork of things like air scrubbers and low-sulphur-emission zones.

In May, cruise line Holland America announced installation of a pilot seawater scrubber on the air stacks of the Zaandam, which sails between Alaska and Vancouver during summer months.

The equipment uses seawater pumped through the stacks to chemically scrub sulphur and other contaminants from engine emissions, then dumps the water back overboard.

However, fresh research out Sweden and the U.K. indicates that when sulphuric acid is added to seawater by scrubbers, carbon dioxide is freed from the ocean surface.

Each molecule of sulphuric acid results in release of two molecules of carbon dioxide as the ocean attempts to retain its alkaline balance, according to studies outlined by Erik Ranheim, manager of research for Intertanko, an association of tanker operators owned independently and not affiliated with oil companies.

The scrubber system aboard the Vaandam was designed by Krystallon, a subsidiary of British oil giant BP. Ottawa kicked in $35,000 in funding and the province a further $30,000. The Vancouver Port Authority contributed $50,000.

Asked about the new studies, William Morani, vice-president of environmental compliance for Holland America, said: “We strongly support international action to reduce emissions from marine engines and believe that there may be multiple options for solutions.”

Morani, said three company ships are rigged for shore power – which is not available in Vancouver – and that preliminary “operational and environmental performance data” from the scrubber will be ready in four to six weeks.

Shipping representatives at the Vancouver meeting urged Andrew Green, a senior policy adviser with Environment Canada, to reject the piecemeal approach and instead join other countries at the International Maritime Organization in making diesel fuel mandatory.

“We have to make a dramatic change and it has to be a global thing,” Robert Ho, president of Hong Kong-based Fairmont Shipping, told The Province.

“Some associations in the industry are saying let’s have choice, let some use [diesel], or some use dirty fuel and have scrubbers. We are against that. If you allow that choice, oil companies will not change They will not [begin to produce clean fuel].”

The American Petroleum Institute recently claimed that moving from residual fuels (such as the commonly used bunker fuel) to distillates such as marine diesel could cost the industry $67 billion US in the next five years.

Ho also argued against the kind of clean-air zones around ports that Canada has promoted. The so-called Sulphur Emission Control Areas require ships burning dirtier bunker C to switch to cleaner diesel when approaching port

“That doesn’t make any sense at all,” he said. “The world is round, it’s all the same air. Why should China continue burning dirt and the West Coast be altruistic?”

An Environment Canada spokesmen said Ottawa’s position is being weighed and a response would be available this week.

© The Province 2007

~ by fredfelleman on October 8, 2007.

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