While the shipping industry is only a few weeks into IMO’s low sulphur emissions era, which came into effect on 1 January 2020, Yara Marine believes that the benefits for shipowners and operators with scrubbers installed is becoming ever more evident. In particular, the company points to the fact that the price differential between conventional and low sulphur fuels is increasing.
Kai Laatun, Yara Marine’s director of sales and public affairs says: “Currently the gap is in the range of US$300 per tonne, which makes the business case for installing SOx scrubbers and continuing to sail using heavy fuel oil (HFO), with a scrubber, extremely profitable. Furthermore, charter rates for these vessels have increased significantly compared to those not yet having scrubbers installed.”
Yara expects this will translate into higher demand levels for scrubber installations as 2020 progresses. “During the second half of 2019, the market calmed down from the boom, mostly caused by congestion at the SOx scrubber installation yards.
This is now changing,” suggests Laatun. “Shipowners are mulling over the increased profitability of having SOx scrubbers, and we see inquiry activity picking up and new orders coming in. It is evident that the SOx scrubber retrofit market will soon pick up significantly, given the substantial competitive advantage for vessels with SOx scrubbers. The only question is, will the market just be extremely good or even go boom again?”
The company has completed retrofit projects for a number of customers over the second half of 2019 and early part of 2020, and has several additional projects in progress. Recently appointed chief executive, Thomas Koniordos, who took over the reins from founder Peter Strandberg last October, reflects: “The total number of retrofits we did last year was significant, and required an unprecedented capacity increase, which we are very satisfied with. Most of the projects involved container ships, bulkers and tankers and all were fitted with inline scrubbers.”
Some of the most challenging projects of the past year concerned large container vessels with installed power of more than 88MW, including auxiliary engines. “We experienced design scaling issues with some of these vessels, but we were prepared to resolve them successfully,” adds Koniordos.
The main focus of customer demand at present is on open-loop systems. Koniordos points out: “This is typical for vessels with only short stints in areas where scrubber washwater discharge is not allowed. In such cases, they shift to compliant fuel when entering zero discharge areas.
Vessels with larger trading patterns in zero discharge areas, typically container vessels, are tending to opt more for hybrid systems, with which you can switch between open and closed-loop modes by a single touch on the panel controlling the system.”
Yara Marine has an active R&D programme and is continuing to further develop its scrubber systems and product portfolio. According to Koniordos: “We aim to make our scrubbers smaller and lighter, and to tailor each solution to fit any vessel type. To this end, we have developed the I-type inline scrubber, which is integrated into the exhaust pipe. For vessels where the scrubber is too short or too narrow we are planning to soon launch a U-type scrubber.”
The U-type, designed to be located outside the exhaust gas funnel, is primarily aimed at the tanker segment, where short funnels can be combined with plenty of space on deck for a scrubber installation, as well as certain types of ro-ro and ro-pax ships.