As the deadline for the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) sulphur regulations approaches, Höegh Autoliners ceo Ivar Myklebust has explained why the company stands firm in its decision to not use scrubbers.

Ivar Myklebust, ceo of Höegh Autoliners

When the IMO’s sulphur regulations, which cut the allowable sulphur content in marine fuel from 3.5 percent to 0.5 percent, come into force on January 1, 2020, carriers face two options: switch to low sulphur fuel oil or install exhaust cleaning systems, also known as scrubbers.

Höegh Autoliners has decided that it will comply with the regulations by using very low sulphur fuel oil or low sulphur marine gas oil (MGO).

“We have ordered zero scrubbers and will order no more,” explained Myklebust. “The reasoning behind the IMO 2020 regulation is to reduce emissions from the global trading fleet. I am not so sure scrubbers will support that mission,” he added.

A scrubber removes particulates from exhaust gasses before they are emitted to the air. “Surely, scrubbers will reduce emissions to air, but it appears as it will just move the emissions to the sea instead,” said Myklebust.

He continued: “Implementing a scrubber can actually end up increasing the CO2 footprint of a vessel. The scrubber adds weight to the vessel and requires tens of thousands of tonnes of water to wash through the systems each day. This requires energy and energy comes from burning more fuel, in this case high sulphur fuel (HFO).”

Another reason Höegh decided against scrubbers is the number of ports that have already started to ban, or restrict the use of, the technology.

“If this is a trend it is impossible to say, but it looks like more ports will follow,” he added. “Considering that each of Höegh Autoliners’ vessels spend 60-70 days in ports annually, often in areas where scrubbers are banned, it makes little sense for us to invest in scrubbers.

“Structurally, pure car and truck carriers (PCTCs) are also not ideal for scrubbers. Fourteen decks high, it is challenging to put in a scrubber that should go from the engine room up through the whole vessel to the chimney.”

Ultimately, according to Myklebust, no matter how carriers choose to comply with the regulations, transporting cargo by sea will be more expensive from January 1, 2020. Those that invest in scrubbers will need their investments to be paid off and for those using very low sulphur fuel oil or MGO, the fuel will be considerably more expensive.

“With shipping rates already down at unsustainable levels in the ro-ro industry, this is not a cost that can be carried by the shipping lines,” said Myklebust. “In our industry, the standard is to share the risk and return of bunker price shifts with the customers, through a bunker adjustment factor (BAF) in the contracts. Focus is now on assuring that all our contracts reflect the new standard bunker point, as we approach end of 2019.”