Mitsubishi Shipbuilding, COSCO shipbuilding unit launch scrubber project

Contract signing between Mitsubishi companies and COSCO Shipping Heavy Industry (Dalian). Credit: Mitsubishi Shipbuilding
Contract signing between Mitsubishi companies and COSCO Shipping Heavy Industry (Dalian). Credit: Mitsubishi Shipbuilding

Mitsubishi Shipbuilding, the shipbuilding unit of the restructured Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and affiliate Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems, has formalised its collaboration with COSCO Shipping Heavy Industry (Dalian) to produce and market rectangular-shaped scrubbers. The scrubbers were designed by Mitsubishi Shipbuilding and will be manufactured, delivered, and installed on vessels by COSCO Shipping Heavy Industry (Dalian), one of the shipbuilding units of the COSCO group.

Mitsubishi Shipbuilding said in an announcement that the rectangular shape of the scrubbers would take up minimal space, an important consideration for shipowners who are thinking of retrofitting vessels ahead of the Interntational Maritime Organization’s (IMO’s) global sulphur cap.

Both sides see healthy demand for scrubbers and the product combines the precision of Japanese design and low labour costs in China.

The scrubber was developed with Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems’ exhaust gas treatment technologies, which were cultivated through its exhaust gas desulphurisation systems for thermal power plants, with Mitsubishi Shipbuilding’s marine engineering expertise.

Japanese shipbuilders, once market leaders in their fields, are facing stiff competition from Chinese shipbuilders that have government support and lower labour costs. This Mitsubishi-COSCO joint venture would thus enable Mitsubishi Shipbuilding to market its products to a wider customer base.

The Mitsubishi companies’ agreement with COSCO Shipping Heavy Industry (Dalian) comes two months after the scrubber was tested on a vessel owned by China COSCO Shipping.

The scrubbers would reduce sulphur oxide emissions to permissible levels, even when burning conventional heavy fuel oil.

The IMO’s global sulphur cap, which will come into effect in 2020, restricts sulphur content in marine fuels to 0.5% from the current limit of 1%. Shipowners can choose to install scrubbers, burn low-sulphur fuel oil, or other fuels such as liquefied natural gas.

Scrubbers remove sulphur from marine fuels as the bunkers are burned, but debate has surrounded its cost effectiveness.

In a recent interview with IHS Markit, chief executive officer of the Anglo-Eastern Group Bjørn Højgaard cited weight and stability issues with scrubbers.

On 28 August, Hong Kong-based bulk carrier owner Jinhui Shipping & Transportation said it is opting to burn low-sulphur fuel oil as it is unsure of the effectiveness of scrubbers.

However, others, like Vale and Ciner Ship Management, are moving ahead with retrofitting plans.