The passenger ship sector was an early adopter of scrubbers and so work has slowed down. Industry insiders open up about how using scrubbers protects them from fuel price uncertainties and cruise operators unveil their scrubber strategies
The cruise and ropax scrubber market is approaching saturation point – and has been overtaken by the container and bulk ship sectors.
DNV GL gathers monthly global statistics for ships confirming the number operating with scrubbers and those which have scrubbers on order and as of October, there were 33 confirmed projects for ropax ships and 155 for cruise ships. Container ships and bulk ships beat these orders with 243 and 552 orders respectively.
Of course, the cruise sector was an early adopter of scrubbers and its requirements are now almost complete. Wärtsilä general manager exhaust treatment Stian Aakre told Passenger Ship Technology “When everyone was waiting for the IMO decision , the cruise industry was installing scrubbers. The cruise market has been a very important market for us for a while; we still sign cruise contracts for both newbuild and retrofits.” But he pointed out there had been a “distinct change” in the market since 2016, when IMO decided to introduce the low sulphur directive in 2020, which is when the merchant marine market took scrubbers into its consideration. “Bulk carriers, tankers and container ship sectors are where we now sell the most.”
Wärtsilä figures show that as of 2018 it has 415 signed scrubber contracts for vessels across all sectors. Of these, 42 are cruise ships and 17 are for the ropax/ferry sector. It has signed contracts for 128 bulk ships and 114 container ships.
Fuel uncertainty drives scrubber market
Talking about one of the main drivers of all segments to adopt scrubbers, Mr Aakre said “the potential of savings is what drives people to order scrubbers in all segments, and a contributory factor is the uncertainty of 0.5% fuel after 2020, in terms of quality and price.
“I know that a lot of operators in all segments are worried about the varying quality so they might be happy with one quality in Europe, for example, and then not have a good bunker somewhere else, so there is inconsistency in bunker quality. Whereas if they install scrubbers, they can bunker well known fuel and at the same time open up to savings’ potential.”
CR Ocean Engineering (CROE) president and chief operating officer Nicholas Confuorto told Passenger Ship Technology “Today’s large price difference [between HFO and low sulphur fuel] is not even close to what I believe it will be in 2020.”
In recent years, CROE delivered a large order for Royal Caribbean – which marked its first entry into the cruise ship market. Seven cruise ships across the Millennium and Radiance classes have had its scrubbers installed. CR Ocean Engineering has also fitted four scrubbers on Stena Line’s Scandinavica and in 2015 and 2016 installed four scrubbers on two of its roro vessels along with many others.
Yara Marine Technologies chief sales and marketing officer Kai Latun told Passenger Ship Technology his thoughts on the cruise scrubber market. “The cruise segment is nearly saturated, most cruise vessels have either scrubbers, or have chosen distillate or LNG, so it is not very active these days. The cruise industry was the early adapter and has already decided on a solution.”
Nevertheless, Yara is still installing scrubbers on newbuilds and ferries, including projects for Brittany Ferries, MSC Cruises and NCL. The MSC Cruises contract involves MSC Fantasia and MSC Preziosa, which are are the fleet’s first ships to be retrofitted with hybrid Yara Marine Technologies’ SOx exhaust gas cleaning systems. This took place in 2017.
The project was led by a team from STX France, the yard that originally built the two vessels. The process equipment installation was completed with the ship in full operation, while the drydock operations, namely the exhaust gas cleaning system installation, was carried out at Fincantieri’s shipyard in Palermo. A statement said that other ships in MSC Cruises’ fleet are set to be retrofitted with exhaust gas cleaning systems in coming years, ahead of the entry into force of the new international sulphur emissions requirements in January 2020.
While the cruise market might be almost saturated with scrubbers and is also increasingly using LNG to comply with 2020, it seems that many passenger ship operators want to embrace different ways of complying within a single fleet. Indeed, the theme of the passenger ship panel debate at SMM in September 2018 was that cruise and ferry operators should not embrace just one method for meeting the low sulphur cap – Carnival Corp senior vice president of maritime affairs Tom Strang and MSC Group executive vice president, maritime policy and government affairs, Bud Darr highlighted the importance of operators using a variety of solutions within their fleet.
Mr Darr illustrated how the MSC fleet was using different ways to meet these regulations, with five ships that “may or may not be fitted with a scrubber”, a series of ships that will be fitted with one and five ships on order to be fuelled by LNG. As he explained, it is important to look at the problem holistically, and find the right solution for the right ships and right itineraries.
Carnival Corp’s fleet is a good example of this too. Its current fleet has 62% of vessels fitted with scrubbers, while 11 newbuildings will use dual-fuel LNG. LNG, while suiting the profile of a newbuild, is much harder to retrofit in cruise ships.
Yara Marine Technologies chief sales and marketing officer Kai Latun has warned that operators could be facing corrosion of scrubbers in as little as three years’ time as some scrubber manufacturers choose cheaper materials over more expensive corrosion-proof material.
He said “Scrubbers are exposed to sea water, temperature variations and sulphuric acid – which is a perfect storm for corrosion.”
Yara itself uses a very tough high nickel alloy (steel) which does not corrode. “It costs a bit of money, but we do not want to use lower quality. We are quite confident that ship owners appreciate that we can give much better quality and have scrubbers that last the lifetime of a ship”.
He said that he believed in two or three years the industry would start to see replacement scrubbers due to corrosion – which would be a “horrendous cost”.
He elaborated “That is my big fear – with a booming scrubber market there are a lot of new entrants. Some are ok, but some are after quick profits.” While he said there are serious scrubber suppliers with good references in the industry, some companies are using low-cost materials which he does not think will withstand corrosion.
He said “I am afraid for shipowners fighting for survival in a tough market, where it is very tempting to cut down technical staff, cut costs, focus on capex and only select cheap scrubber solutions.”
He warned “I am afraid we will soon start to hear stories of corroding scrubbers which may kick back on the whole scrubber technology as some people will start to say scrubbers don’t work.”
He is trying to raise awareness in the shipping industry of this risk.
Mr Latun summed up “The scrubber industry as a whole will get hit if there are a lot of low quality scrubbers installed out there.”