Some container lines are persevering with scrubber retrofits despite the recent narrowing in high-sulfur fuel oil (HSFO) discounts that makes them look less profitable, according to shipping intelligence service Alphaliner.

The price spread between HSFO and very low sulfur fuel oil (VLSFO) at Rotterdam narrowed by $8.50/mt to $46.50/mt Tuesday, and has been hovering around record lows for the past week. The spread represents the fuel saving shipowners with scrubber-equipped tonnage can benefit from when calling at the Dutch port.

But despite the drop in the profitability of scrubbers, container ships are still arriving at shipyards to have the equipment fitted, Alphaliner said in its weekly report Tuesday.

“So far, at least 20 vessels have entered shipyards for retrofitting in April, joining some 35 units that entered the yards in March,” the company said.

But the total number of container ships undergoing retrofits has dropped to 90, Alphaliner said, down from a peak of 119 in mid-March.

Shipyards in China “have largely resumed normal operations,” the company said, after the COVID-19 pandemic caused numerous delays earlier this year.

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