Enforce discharge rules, says ACO Marine

Industry experts are calling for a review of wastewater discharge rules to ensure performance is verified Photo: ACO Marine Industry experts are calling for a review of wastewater discharge rules to ensure performance is verified Photo: ACO Marine
Industry Database

ACO Marine, together with wastewater treatment system manufacturers and environmental organisations, has called for a revision to MARPOL Annex IV in order to verify the ongoing performance and discharge criteria of onboard sewage treated systems.

Whilst there are rules in place for verifying discharge parameters, these relate only to type-approval testing in land-based establishments. There is currently no enforcement of wastewater discharge criteria once a system has been installed and becomes operational onboard ship.

ACO Marine's managing director, Mark Beavis, said: “The main contention is that we believe there are type-approved systems in operation at sea that are scientifically incapable of treating sewage waste.”

A paper co-authored by Mr Beavis – 'Sewage Treatment with No-Sludge Production – A False Claim, and a Non-Conformity' – attests: “Some manufacturers claim their sewage treatment plants do not produce sludge. Unfortunately, conformity assessment bodies have approved their equipment. But they have certified impossibilities and created certified ‘magic boxes’. These systems contravene science.”

“These ‘magic boxes’ would not be able to perform no matter how well they are operated and we are very concerned about the environmental damage these systems are causing,” said Mr Beavis.

While the rules were tightened with MEPC.227(64) and the use of dilution water limited during performance tests, this has not prevented the certification of these so-called sludge-free systems.

Existing guidelines do not explicitly prohibit no-sludge systems but the authors believe the type approval regime is a “contradiction to the IMO’s intentions”.

The paper calls for IMO, its member states and the approval assessment bodies to acknowledge the issue and establish protocols in order to prevent such non-conformities from recurring.

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