Diego Aponte says installing scrubbers on its containerships ‘is the right thing to do’ and makes economic sense, given the probable shortage of clean fuels when the new sulphur cap rules come into effect in
The world's top three container lines are pursuing different strategies as the shipping industry decides how best to reduce sulphur emissions under the new global rules that take effect in less than two years’ time
MEDITERRANEAN Shipping Co remains solidly in favour of scrubber technology, even though many other shipowners are not yet convinced of the merits of onboard oil refineries.
The shipping industry must comply with new global emission requirements that come into force in 2020 but is divided about how best to meet the sulphur cap rules.
MSC, however, has made a firm commitment to scrubbers for its fleet rather than burn cleaner fuels that may not be available in the quantities required.
By contrast, MSC’s 2M partner Maersk is unenthusiastic about scrubbers on its ships. It is in talks with oil companies about supplying fuel with a low sulphur content, while CMA CGM plans to install liquefied natural gas tanks on new ships it has under construction.
MSC also has a newbuilding programme for a series of 23,000 teu ships, but these will all be fitted with scrubbers, MSC Group president and chief executive Diego Aponte reconfirmed this week.
At the same time, MSC has recently completed a huge refit programme involving much of its fleet, with new propellers, bulbous bows and other upgrades designed to improve efficiency, while also installing scrubbers on a significant number of its ships.
“We are going for scrubbers because we believe it is the right thing to do,” Mr Aponte said during a wide-ranging interview with Lloyd’s List.
Nevertheless, the new machinery and closed loop systems that MSC plans to install will not be easy to operate and will require another person in the engine room to supervise and deal with the residues.
When combining the impact of soaring oil prices with the need to clean up ships’ exhaust gases, the extra costs faced by a container line the size of MSC could be in the low billions of dollars a year, in addition to the $7m-$8m price of each scrubber installation.
Mr Aponte also raised other concerns about the challenges facing the shipping industry as it races to meet the International Maritime Organization deadline.
Refineries have not invested in new plants able to produce marine gas oil in sufficient quantities, while there may also be questions over the quality of distillates or the compatibility of different bunker blends.
Whereas there is likely to be a squeeze on the supply of cleaner fuels, the availability of heavy fuel should be plentiful and therefore cheaper.
So despite the upfront costs of fitting scrubbers, “from an economic point of view, it is a no brainer”, said Mr Aponte.