The number of exhaust gas cleaning systems (scrubbers) being
installed on containerships is gathering pace, according to Drewry.
It now accounts for 10% of the global fleet by teu capacity, and
more than 40% of newbuild vessels are being fitted with the onboard fuel
Currently there are 266 boxships fitted with scrubbers, for an
aggregate capacity of 2.2m teu, led by MSC with 46% of its operating fleet and
Evergreen with 21%.
Both carriers have decided the technology is the most
cost-effective option to comply with the IMO’s 0.5% sulphur cap on fuel, which
comes into force on 1 January 2020.
Notwithstanding the $5-$10m cost of a scrubber system,
maintenance costs and downtime required for installation, carriers deploying
these ships will likely enjoy a significant cost advantage over rivals that
will need to purchase the more-expensive low-sulphur fuel oil (LSFO).
Indeed, analysts are predicting that the spread – the difference
between the price of LSFO and the HFO (heavy fuel oil) ships fitted with
scrubbers will be able to burn – could be $200-$250 per tonne. In terms of an
Asia-North Europe roundtrip of a ULCV, this could represent a saving of more
than $1m in bunker costs.
Drewry also highlighted a potential benefit to the industry from
the IMO 2020 regulations in terms of a tightening of supply. It said: “If the
trend [uptake of scrubbers] intensifies, there could be some side benefits for
ocean carriers by restricting supply during 2019.”
It added: “Scrubber-fitted containerships will be in the
minority of the fleet, but as their popularity increases there is likely to be
some temporary supply-side disruption that could affect freight rates in 2019.”
Drewry said the IMO 2020 regulation was also expected to
“reignite the demolitions market”, weeding out older, more heavy-polluting
ships that will cease to be economic post-2020.
Moreover, it suggested that in a several trades, the number of
ships could be temporarily reduced next year as more are taken out of service
Ship managers are currently quoting around six weeks in dry-dock
for the retrofitting of a scrubber system, but this could be longer or shorter
depending on the complexity of the job.
Advocates of scrubbers expect the downtime will be reduced as
the industry develops.
The Loadstar understands that several containership owners are
planning to combine scrubber installations with regular dry-docking class
surveys or maintenance.
Nevertheless, carriers that have “sat on the fence” on whether
to commit to scrubbers may now have left it too late to meet the IMO 2020
Last month, Hapag-Lloyd chief operating officer Anthony Firmin
said the availability for installing scrubbers was “extremely tight”.
“If you wanted to order a scrubber today, they are sold out,” he
Hapag-Lloyd had left its decision to retrofit 10 of its 13,000
teu ships with scrubbers in 2019 and 2020 quite late and Mr Firmin explained
that the total capacity for scrubber installation was currently only around 500
ships a year – mainly due to a shortage of qualified engineers in the industry.