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Posidonia 2018: Scrubbers Not a Long-Term Solution

Scrubbers are not a long-term solution for the impending 2020 sulphur cap, Kim Yeon-tae, Executive Director of the Korean Register, told World Maritime News on the sidelines of the Posidonia 2018 exhibition and conference.

The regulation requires that all ships trading outside of the sulphur Emission Control Areas (ECAs) start using fuel with a sulphur content of up to 0.5 pct, a considerable reduction from the currently permitted maximum of 3.5 pct, as of January 1, 2020.

Ships using exhaust gas cleaning technology will be able to continue to use high sulphur fuel oil (HSFO) as a marine fuel. However, the shipping community has raised numerous concerns regarding the viability of scrubbers, especially when speaking about open-loop type of scrubbers.

The open-loop scrubber system removes SOx from the exhaust by utilizing seawater which is later discharged into the sea.

Initiatives have been made to ban the discharge of the washwater from scrubbers into certain regions as the contents of the released water include heavy metals and poly-aromatic hydrocarbons, posing a risk to marine life.

“The main reason why shipping companies opt for scrubbers is that they think that a potential ban on the discharge of the washwater is likely to be delayed,” Kim said.

Taking into account the IMO procedures, and the duration of the regulative process, it will take some time to designate these areas.

Despite the fact that the IMO insists that there would be no delay in the implementation of the sulphur cap, the shipowners are still taking the “wait and see approach”, Kim continued.

Aside to scrubbers, shipowners have a number of options to choose from, when it comes to picking an alternative, to become compliant with the new rules.

Speaking of the sentiment among the shipping companies in South Korea, Kim informed that Korean owners still feel that it is too early to adopt LNG as marine fuel.

Namely, retrofitting existing ships to LNG is a costly and complex undertaking that takes a considerable time to complete. This in particular relates to small and medium-sized companies for which converting ships to LNG is pretty far away, he explained.

“Some shipowners in Korea are considering the switch to LNG, but there are several risks to consider and the price is too high,” he said, adding that LNG as marine fuel is not a long-term solution either.

Another option for shipowners is low sulphur fuel, but the shipping community is worried about the lack of availability of the said fuel.

Regarding the availability issues, Kim said that it would probably take up to two years for those to be resolved, adding that by 2022 there should be enough supply worldwide.

Korean Register is providing technical support to different shipping companies in their decision making process and preparing for the implementation of the regulation.

Speaking from personal experience, Kim informed that when providing guidance to ship owners there is no silver bullet.

“We provide shipowners with different options and the final solution is decided by the company and tailor-made to their specific needs,” he concluded.

Reported by Jasmina Ovcina Mandra