Installations of scrubbers that remove sulphur from ship exhaust fumes are growing exponentially, Norwegian classification society DNV GL has said.
About 750 vessels are now fitted with the technology, although there are “many more in the pipeline” that have are yet to show up in the figures.
With demand having grown quickly, the greatest obstacles to installing the technology are shipyard constraints and the manufacturers’ capacity to make the devices.
The International Maritime Organization has ruled that from 2020, vessels must limit their sulphur emissions to 0.5%, but until recently, most owners have been reluctant to invest in sulphur abatement technology.
“Almost nothing happened in 2017,” DNV GL’s Stine Mundal said, adding that as 2020 approaches, “owners are getting nervous”.
There has been a shift in the type of vessel that is installing scrubbers. Whereas the cruise line segment was an early adopter of the technology, bulk carriers now make up the largest number of installations, at 21%.
At the Posidonia exhibition from 4–8 June in Athens, Greece, DNV GL presented data showing that the cost of a scrubber would probably be recouped in one to two years on the largest tankers, as the device will enable vessels to burn heavy fuel oil, which is expected to be priced at a significant discount compared with high-sulphur alternatives.
“We were quite conservative with the spread we used,” Mundal said. “The payback could be even faster.”
The largest bulk carriers are expected to repay the scrubbers’ cost in just six months, she added.