Helsinki, Finland, headquartered naval architecture and marine engineering specialist Foreship says a growing number of shipowners are reviewing their decisions on the best way to meet IMO 2020 sulfur emissions limits. The consultancy says it has seen an unprecedented surge of inquiries on how exhaust gas cleaning systems, or scrubbers, can be fitted at short notice, following emerging market misgivings over the quality and availability of 0.5 per cent sulfur content fuel oils.

According to Foreship, many of the shipowners who have fitted scrubbers have reported a relatively smooth transition through IMO 2020 rule changes. Conversely, the higher costs of very low sulfur fuel oils (VLSFOs) have been accompanied by concerns that include an unexpected black carbon emission issue.

“The realities of IMO 2020 have caught many off guard, with some in the market quickly shifting from contemplating whether a switch to scrubbers was advantageous to considering how soon they can practically do so,” says Foreship EGCS Project Lead Olli Somerkallio. “Uncertainty surrounding low-sulfur fuel oils is causing owners to reconsider whether they made the right choice on scrubbers, with fresh inquiries on equipment evaluation and installation arriving almost daily.”

Foreship says that figures from consultancy CRU indicate that 3,756 vessels have exhaust gas scrubbers either installed or on order. By the end of 2020, up to 15 per cent of ocean-going freight capacity will employ the technology, with the number now expected to rise to 20 per cent by 2025.

Having built a team of 15 engineers specialized in scrubber consultancy over nine years and with a 58-ship reference list spanning six vessel types, Somerkallio says Foreship has played its part in bringing scrubber payback times down to 12–18 months. He adds that, in the run up to the IMO 2020 deadline, equipment suppliers worked hard to reduce installation times, with a number of RO/RO freight vessel, tanker and bulker projects involving scrubbers installed as pre-outfitted modules to minimize works onboard. Nevertheless, shipowners still need assurance that the systems have been fully evaluated and optimized, whatever the time pressures.

“We understand that this is a difficult moment for ship operators who have followed the rules only to find themselves at a competitive disadvantage,” says Somerkallio. “While VLSFOs may well be costing more day-to-day, the scrubber is still a multi-million-dollar item whose evaluation, selection and installation will benefit from advice that is independent of the supplier and the shipyard.”

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