In an effort to reduce the maritime industry’s adverse environmental health impacts, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) issued a regulation (IMO-2020) lowering the limit of allowable sulfur content in ships bunker fuel from 3.5% to 0.5% effective January 1, 2020. While IMO-2020 has reduced airborne ship pollution in coastal seaports since its enactment, the ruling includes regulatory loopholes. While some vessels choose to use Low Sulfur Fuel Oil (LSFO) or Liquified Natural Gas (LNG), many others, in particular cruise ships, have elected instead to install Exhaust Gas Cleaning Systems, also known as scrubbers. Scrubbers, which most often use seawater to neutralize ship’s exhaust gases, produce effluents that are released into the ocean, generally untreated, resulting in environmental damages. This loophole in IMO 2020 could be fixed by an international ban on scrubber discharges.

In this paper, as part of a wider ship-borne marine pollution project, we review several cases of bans, restrictions, and special requirements that have been imposed at the national, regional, or port level across sites in the Americas, in an effort to understand the possible solutions to curb marine pollution from scrubbers, as this technology is increasingly adopted worldwide.


Download this awesome infographic that explains scrubbers and shipborne marine pollution. Available in both English and Spanish!

We also produced this simple map of the Americas that shows what regulations are in place to mitigate scrubbers’ washwater pollution in the region, both in English and Spanish.

You can also see this 4-minute video capsule in SPANISH that explains these issues in a very visual manner. Te recomendamos ver esta cápsula de 4 minutos que explica el tema de la contaminación marina de los depuradores que utilizan los cruceros, de una manera sencilla y gráfica.