- We have started working with the scrubbers’ retrofit project since 2014, before the scrubbers’ project fall in hibernation for about three years.
- We have had recently the obligation to assist some of our very important Clients’ technical executives in forming their opinion and proposing a strategy to their CEO’s and / or shipowners.
- We have had the opportunity to participate in conferences and discuss the issue with technical managers, EGCS makers representatives, Classification Societies experts, shipyard representatives.
- We have had the privilege to discuss this issue with executives of very big tanker operators.
- We have read articles, heard rumors, discussed a lot about this issue which became the number one issue, especially since the end of last year.
- We have recently 3D scanned half a dozen big tanker ships and we are carrying out EGCS related feasibility studies
This scrubbers’ issue may be with us for the years to come but it will marginally affect the next major challenge of shipping, the Sulphur Cap 2020. Even if the scrubbers are more successful than the most optimistic scrubber maker could expect, they will be installed on ships which will not burn more that 10% of the globally annually consumed FO by the year 2025… Although the technical staff of the shipmanagement / shipowning Companies are assigned the task to propose the way ahead, the main risks involved with this decision are purely commercial, i.e.:
a. How much and for how long will the difference of non-compliant with the compliant fuel support the investment of the scrubbers’ retrofitting?
b. When sufficient compliant fuel will be available worldwide?
c. For how long and where non-compliant fuel will be available and at which price?
The financial implications, related with technical risks, the money-for-value selection of maker – engineering company – shipyard, or turn-key contractor scheme, the engineering and project management fields are definitely an important part of this difficult riddle, but even if it is properly addressed by the technical staff involved, it will not be enough to support this multi-million decision due to the above mentioned risks. Unfortunately, decisions are delayed due to that pile of potential trouble which many of us may see or suspect. Consequently, the difficult decision becomes even more difficult because there are more challenges added on top of the above, i.e.: short time periods for the preparation of the retrofit project, marginally sufficient time for the makers to construct / prepare and deliver their equipment, negotiations with shipyards, integration issues with the other ongoing projects (BWTS retrofit), everything under the pressure of time – there are 20 months till the starting date of the Sulphur Cap.
Although the return of investment has been in many ways and with all sorts of assumptions calculated, it is a common secret that the main reason that shipping is interested in this dangerous project is exactly that risky nature which implies that a big opportunity is potentially hiding behind it: what if finally, the first months or years after 1 Jan 2020, the difference of the fuel prices is so big that the savings for the scrubber owners / charterers will not be the calculated one, but unexpectedly high?
It is therefore inevitable that those who can, will take the risk, to an acceptable level and extent at least. And the decision makers will not be the Technical Directors. The technical staff will be though the ones who will be invited to materialize those bold decisions, combining them into feasible projects which may involve very challenging retrofitting periods, in extreme cases including a special survey period with an extensive set of repairs and upgrades, BWTS combined with EGCS retrofits, completed with multi-days sea trials!!!
We will be faithfully standing next to our Clients and support their strategy and plans to the best of our capability. These very challenging years will be at least exciting, hope will be also profitable.