BIMCO: Scrubber installation set to rise despite 2022 fall

Exhaust gas cleaning systems, also known as scrubbers, were installed on 399 ships in 2022, marking a fall of 24% y/y, data from BIMCO shows.

Scrubber; Image courtesy: Yara Marine

The systems are being installed on ships to comply with the IMO 2020 Sulphur Cap as a way of cleaning out sulphur emissions while continuing to burn less expensive heavy fuel oil.

Currently, 13% of bulker, container, and tanker ships have a scrubber installed, according to BIMCO”s  Chief Shipping Analyst, Niels Rasmussen.

In fact, the average dry bulk, container, and tanker ship with a scrubber has a deadweight capacity of 140,845 tonnes whereas those without have an average of 51,743 deadweight tonnes.

Therefore, the 13% of the dry bulk, container, and tanker ships with scrubbers represents 29% of the deadweight capacity. The crude tanker fleet has the highest installation rate with 32% of the ships and 38% of the deadweight capacity having scrubbers installed.

As explained the price premium for VLSFO has turned out to be less than initially estimated.

On 31 December 2019, the day before the new IMO regulation was implemented, the price premium for VLSFO in six of the world’s largest bunkering ports averaged $347/tonne. Since then, the premium has averaged $149/tonne. It has been as low as # 50/tonne for an extended period during 2020 and as high as $400/tonne during June/July 2022.

“The higher the VLSFO premium, the more attractive the investment in a scrubber is because the payback period is shorter. The lower-than-expected VLSFO premium has likely discouraged owners from installing scrubbers, particularly on smaller ships with lower bunker consumption and lower savings as a result,” Rasmussen said.

“Despite the slowing rate of installations, the share of ships with a scrubber is set to increase in coming years as 17% of ships in the shipyards’ order books are expected to have a scrubber installed,” he said.

However, that 17 % only amount to 24% of the deadweight capacity in the order book and the scrubber deadweight percentage could therefore decrease, he further explained.

“In the long term, the use of scrubbers to cut sulphur emissions may reduce as decarbonisation efforts will increase the use of alternative fuels that are sulphur compliant,” Rasmussen said.

Graph of ships with scrubber installed
Image credit BIMCO

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