A snapshot of some of the latest public shipping company earnings reports shows there has been a significant switch in trading basins as companies bring dry dockings forward to equip their vessels with scrubbers.
Public shipping company Eagle Bulk Shipping owns 45 dry bulk carriers. In reporting the company’s second quarter results, Eagle Bulk’s chief executive officer Gary Vogel referred to an unusual displacement of the fleet in 2019 between the main trading basins.
“We currently have a greater percentage of our fleet trading in the weaker Pacific [Basin] as compared to a normal state, as we have been repositioning tonnage for scrubber installations at yards in China," he said. "As such, we believe our TCE performance has, and will continue to be affected, somewhat for the balance of the year as a result of our scrubber installation programme. This is, of course, an investment we are making today that we expect will positively impact earnings generation of our fleet starting in 2020.”
According to Eagle Bulk, the expected time for scrubber installation is between 11 and 12 days, per ship. Following work in dry dock, the company is using riding crews to complete commissioning while the vessel is in transit.
“By the end of September, we expect to have nine scrubbers commissioned and operational and 16 additional installed with riding teams onboard completing the installations for commissioning.” This work will give the company a total of 41 scrubber-equipped vessels from a current fleet of 45 ships, with 38 scrubbers-equipped vessels up and running by IMO 2020 deadline.
Separately, dry bulk carrier operator Genco Shipping & Trading Limited reported in a 1H 2019 earnings call that the company has also tactically traded its vessels in the Pacific in order to make them available for shipyard slots. The positioning is a deviation from its normal strategy of maintaining a balance of the fleet in the Atlantic and Pacific, according to CEO John Wobensmith.
Scrubbers were also raised in the second quarter earnings call of dry bulk carrier operator Star Bulk Carriers, which has a live fleet of 91 vessels plus more on charter. The co-chief finance officer Simos Spyrou said the group took an early decision to equip vessels with scrubbers, which gave the company the choice of manufacturers as well as securing berths at major shipyards. The company has pushed forward all of its fleet’s dry dockings so that scrubber installations can take place in parallel with a Special Survey -- required every 30-60 months, depending on the age of the vessel -- and within the same timeframe. According to Star Bulk chief executive Petros Pappa, the average time for a Star Bulk scrubber installation and Special Survey dry dock is 23 days but the company is reducing the time to 16 days with scrubber pre-installations.
In total, Star Bulk will undertake 52 dry dockings in the second half of 2019, with 101 Star Bulk-controlled vessels set to be fitted with scrubbers during the 2019 installations taking place in China and Europe. In order to reduce retrofitting time at the shipyards, the company has 120 specialised technicians on staff that are deployed onboard to complete some of the installation at sea. As a result of this concentrated project, the company will require no dry docks or scrubber installations in 2020.