Consistent implementation of the 0.5% sulphur limit for all vessels will ensure that a level playing field is maintained, with the immediate aim of achieving significant improvements in the environment and human health. Morten Klose, Sales Manager at MCI commented: “Although the benefits are clear – and are something we all welcome – there’s no getting away from the fact that they come with a heavy cost burden for ship operators. Current industry estimates predict a rise in fuel costs of around 45%.”
Complying with the new regulations
There are various options open to ship operators to ensure compliance with the new regulations. One is to use a new form of low-sulphur distillate fuel that already meets the 0.5% sulphur requirements. Although this solution can be applied without making any modifications to engines, the fuel itself is around 45% more expensive.
Another alternative is the installation of “scrubbers” to remove sulphur. Installed within the ship’s exhaust handling process, scrubber technology works by passing the dirty exhaust gas stream through successive chambers containing a “scrubbing cloud” of water. The advantage of this technology is that it enables shipping lines to continue using bunker fuel while still complying with the new sulphur directive. These systems can be installed on new builds or retrofitted to existing vessels. Nevertheless, the cost of installation or modification is high.
The most environmentally friendly solution is to switch over to liquefied natural gas LNG. Gas-carrying vessels have been using LNG as part of their fuel source for decades and the technology is well proven. However, using LNG to power conventional ships is extremely costly for both new builds and especially retrofitting. This is because an entirely new form of power system needs to be installed.
At the same time, LNG brings with it a number of challenges that are not present with conventional fuel oil. These include the high energy content of the LNG tank, the risk of explosions in the event of gas leakage, additional hazardous spaces onboard and the need to train the crew to safely use a new fuel source. Less risky alternative fuels such as methanol or biodiesel are also an option, but questions remain regarding their global availability.
Enforcement and non-compliance issues
To enforce the new sulphur regulations, all fuel suppliers will be required to make a declaration on Bunker Delivery Notes to the effect that the fuel can be used onboard within the new 0.5% sulphur limits. In addition, port authorities will be making random checks on vessels in harbour.