Scrubbers: Problem or Solution?
The 0.5% sulphur cap is set to be implemented by the IMO from 2020. However, even with the date so close, there is no unanimous strategy for compliance. Some shipowners opt to use low sulphur fuels or LNG, others choose the renewable option with wind rotor sails, but the far more attractive option seems to be scrubbers. While it’s true that they can help to comply with the new rules on sulphur, other issues of using them need to be addressed.
Scrubbers are one of the cheapest options to meet the IMO rules compared to purchasing low sulphur fuel. For this reason, multiple companies are investing and fitting their ships with this technology. Recently, Stena Bulk announced that it will install scrubbers on its 16 tankers – 10 IMO II, five Suezmax tankers and a Medium Range tanker. The investment in the open loop scrubbers will require $55 million to be recouped in about 1.5 to 2.5 years.
Other big shipowners are also rushing to equip their fleets with scrubbers. Among others, Maersk Line committed $263m for installation on around 50 of its biggest vessels, while MSC is looking to fit 120 ships in its fleet. Japanese shipowner NYK has also recently secured an $81m “green loan” to finance the purchase and installation of scrubbers.
Overall, 1,900 scrubbers are set to be installed in 2019, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), with a further 1,500 in 2020. This would mean that up to 10% of the world fleet by capacity will have scrubbers by 2020, estimates Clarksons Research.
However, not everybody is happy about the growing commitment to scrubber technology. Reuters reports that Singapore, China and Fujairah will ban the use of open loop scrubbers from the start of next year with ports in Finland, Lithuania, Ireland, Russia and Norway also banning or restricting such exhaust cleaning systems.
The main reason for this is the danger for marine environment caused by wastewater from scrubbers. Open loop systems wash out sulphur and particles from the exhaust and discharge the dirty water into the ocean that is believed to be harmful. However, a three-year study carried out by Carnival showed that exhaust gas cleaning systems are effective and safe for the ocean environment. The results are also backed by the declaration from Japanese authorities last month, claiming that washwater discharge from open-loop scrubbers is not damaging to the environment.
With contrasting opinions about scrubbers, a growing amount of investments and retrofitted ships, the industry still seems to be confused about the effect of these systems. As the date for the new regulation is coming closer, will the right decisions be made? Find out the opinions of shipowners and industry experts at the 4th International Green & Smart Shipping Summit in Rotterdam on 8-9 October. You can find more information and register at www.gssummit.org.