Installation bottlenecks are being ironed out – and a ‘new wave’ of scrubber installations is forecast for the container ship market in 2020
2020 is gearing up to see a boom in container ship orders despite delays in scrubber installations in shipyards.
As Yara Marine Technologies chief executive Thomas Koniordos predicts “The next big wave of scrubbers is coming.”
Yara Marine Technologies’ technical sales manager Anders Sørheim tells Container Shipping & Trade “Operators did not want to make a decision until they had to, and this led to long delivery times. There will not be the same issues as last year, we have identified all the bottlenecks in capacity and have commissioning engineers so we are ready and prepared for the big boom.”
Other solutions providers agree. Clean Marine also expects a boost in scrubber orders. Clean Marine PR and marketing manager Camilla Knappskog says “We expect a second wave of scrubber orders now the technology and fuel price spread assumptions have been confirmed.”
Clean Marine has more than 250 scrubbers on its orderbook and completed more than 70% in 2019.
She adds “Current deliveries are still part of the first wave of orders, of which some yard-stays have been postponed by shipowners due to the high tanker rates the market is currently seeing. We are waiting for the second wave of orders to kick in soon. Given that fuel spreads are high, and expected to be high in the coming years, it is financially beneficial for at least 20-30,000 ships in the market to install scrubbers.”
Clean Marine experienced high demand for scrubbers from shipowners wanting to be compliant before IMO2020 kicked in. Ms Knappskog says “Now that we have entered into January 2020, we see a new upsurge in interest for scrubbers as many shipowners have tried and tested the products, have compared producers and scrubbers versus VLSFO and see the benefits of installing a scrubber on their fleet. Moreover, we believe the current cost savings that scrubber-fitted vessels benefit from compared to vessels running on VLSFO will act as a catalyst for shipowners wanting to install scrubbers.”
The focus on finishing container ship scrubber retrofits means that not much additional activity in terms of new orders is being seen, says CR Ocean Engineering (CROE) Nicholas Confuorto.
He explains “The industry is not seeing much additional activity except for finishing projects – shipyards are very busy with retrofits and there are installation delays because of this. Many of these projects have been pushed into 2020 when they wanted to finish in 2019 and these are very hectic times to get the projects finished. Therefore, there is not much activity in terms of new projects.”
But Mr Confuorto expects much more activity soon. “Given the pricing differentials, I think there is no question that scrubbers are the best option. There is currently a US$300 price differential (between VLSFO and HSFO), up US$100 since a month ago, so a real jump. It is a steep incline and I believe it will get even higher than that in the next couple of months.
“Container ships use a lot of fuel, that’s why I am hoping these projects will be coming back strongly once current projects are finished.”
He says the scrubber container market mainly consists of retrofits, making up 90% of the market. CROE itself has 30 container ships on its books, including both ultra large container ships and feeders. Many are already commissioned but some are still waiting to finish installation. All are retrofits.
Speaking about CROE scrubber developments, Mr Confuorto says “Our focus over several months has been to simplify things for the customer. Some ships need a different shape of scrubber tower to fit better.” To this end CROE has four different designs.
Concerns about availability and compliance issues of low sulphur fuel is helping to propel scrubbers as a strong alternative, Pacific Green Technologies vice president marine direct sales Frode Helland-Evebo says. He expects to see a positive year ahead for scrubber sales within the box ship market.
“I think this year will be big, like 2018.”
Pacific Green is targeting the 8-14,000-TEU ship market for scrubbers and is working on several projects within this area. He adds “We expect more as there is an interesting scrubber case for container ships as they burn a lot of fuel.”
New shipyards ease bottlenecks
The scrubber container ship market has suffered delays in retrofits due to bottlenecks – but new shipyard capacity is easing the load, says Cleanship Solutions business development manager Stuart McKenna.
Cleanship Solutions facilitates the design and engineering of scrubbers. Mr McKenna says “We have done a lot of container ships in 2019. The first move for container ships came in 2018, and in 2019, more container ship operators wanted to make sure their fleets were ready for any eventuality. They installed scrubbers on a percentage of their fleet to spread the risk and secure supply of fuel.”
Speaking about the container ship retrofit market, he says “There have been a few bottlenecks as there has been a struggle for design engineering capacity. There is a squeeze on the skillset that companies including Cleanship offer, and people are working to get retrofits completed as quickly as possible. Shipyards underestimated the time it takes to install a scrubber, meaning there are backlogs, with Chinese yards quite full and not going as quickly as hoped.”
As well as Chinese yards trying to work as quickly as possible, he said bottlenecks were easing as other locations are now fitting scrubbers, such as Turkey and other markets which wouldn’t normally carry out scrubber retrofits. Mr McKenna says “Turkey has good availability for retrofits, out of China it is the second most popular place. However, it is a learning curve for yards as it is quite a complicated job.”
Looking ahead, Mr McKenna says “I think 2020, with the current fuel spread, is going to be an exciting year and for container ships particularly – one of those markets that if you don’t have a scrubber, it will be hard to compete.”
New scrubber developments
Scrubber manufacturers have been busy developing their solutions. Timab Magnesium has developed its MH 53 S Mare product (magnesium hydroxide) as magnesium is known for its alkali properties. The company is producing more than 500,000 MT of magnesium per year, giving it very good knowledge of magnesium properties.
Timab Magnesium business unit desulphuration manager Loic Begue tells Container Shipping & Trade “The main benefits compared to caustic soda are: MH 53 S Mare is a non-hazardous product to store and supply without any risk and definitely much easier to handle for the crews. In addition, MH 53 S Mare consumption is 30% lower than caustic soda so there is a significant financial benefit to using our product.
“We have delivered to more than 180 vessels which are all using our product. Timab Magnesium is working with some of the leading container ship companies in the world.”
Typically, those companies are using MH 53 S Mare on all their scrubber-fitted vessels.
Mr Begue says “We continue to invest in our supply chain to fully support our customers, aiming to deliver the product to the major ports of the world at short notice.”
He adds that the company can deliver its product in northern Europe and the Mediterranean within one working week. He adds “We have a buffer stock in Singapore/Shanghai. We will launch in Busan at the beginning of March and Panama as well. These strategic hubs allow us to reduce our costs and to provide our products to customers easily and cost efficiently.
Mr Begue says “Our solution is not only sold; we also have a team study the vessel schedules of our customers to propose the best bunkering places to optimise logistic costs for our customers.”
Yara Marine is working on several new developments. It has developed using different kinds of alkali such as magnesium soda instead of caustic soda which is a hazardous chemical. The company is running a pilot project and is planning to take soda ash to the market soon. As well as being completely harmless, Mr Koniordos points out other benefits. “It is even simpler to clean the systems and they are more compatible.”
Yara is also launching a U-type scrubber. “This has no moving parts – the holy grail for a scrubber,” says Mr Koniordos.
The company has sold 85 scrubber systems to the container ship market. Many of these are ultra large container ships. Mr Koniordos says “The more fuel savings, the better the investment and it is a no brainer for large vessels. The return on investment is paid off in a matter of months.” The company has also sold scrubbers to 12 feeder vessels.
A major focus for Clean Marine is training. Ms Knappskog says “Through many years’ experience in this industry, we see that service and crew training is key to delivering high quality products and aftermarket service to our clients. We have focused on building a worldwide service organisation ready to assist our clients wherever they sail. It is important to train the crew in operating and handling this equipment. Retraining of crew is also vital as the crew changes frequently.”
Recent scrubber developments for the company include increased focus on developing the control and automation system of the EGCS. Furthermore, in September last year Clean Marine launched a new SOx scrubber which reduces total installed weight of infrastructure by more than two thirds. Ms Knappskog says “This means significant capex savings on the scrubber itself with no need to strengthen the ship structure prior to installation.”
Elsewhere, Pacific Green launched a new offering in 2019 – it is offering an open deck installation of its scrubber system. Mr Helland-Evebo says “This is interesting to owners. It saves a lot of engineering and so the ship spends less time in drydock, as the scrubber does not need housing. As it is not in the funnel, it is easier to access for maintenance. There is a lot of added value.”
Pacific Green’s solution incorporates its patented Turbohead technology, which uses an induced frothing process to ensure efficient scrubbing of the exhaust gases. Pacific Green says this is smaller and more cost effective to build and operate, and it makes an open-deck installation easier.
The future is bright for the box ship scrubber market. Mr Begue tells Container Shipping & Trade “Container ship companies must remain competitive. It will be very difficult for them to ask their customers to absorb the extra fuel costs. Therefore, I believe the scrubber-fitted company will reap the benefits within the next year compared to the company which decided to burn expensive low sulphur fuel. We could easily see scrubbers gaining market share within the next two years. Our responsibility is to support the companies which make that investment decision to ensure their operations will be smooth and cost effective.”
Mr Koniordos adds that using a scrubber is a benefit for a container ship operator, as due to the lower price of the fuel, owners can set freight rates lower. But lines can be squeezed without a scrubber due to the higher cost of low sulphur fuel oil, meaning shippers will have to pay more in rates to help compensate.