“We are facing the beginning of a new chapter in the history of marine propulsion, but the uncertainties are not few”. Enrico Allieri, Head of “Ship Technology, Marine Safety & Environment” for Assarmatori draws his conclusions at the end of the “IMO Sulfur Cap 2020: Implementation Plan,” a Technical Seminar held May 8th in Livorno, Italy. The Technical Seminar was organized by Vice President Giovanni Giustiniano from the Tuscany section of ATENA (Associazine Italiana Di Tecnica Navale or the Italian Naval Technique Association). Mr Giustiniano is also a Naval Architect & Marine Engineer Manager at Moby SpA.
From the various points of view and proposed solutions brought to the table by sector experts–including those representing the shipping scene and the national maritime sector, several key points emerged along with some bad news that the ISO standard for new fuels will not be available sufficiently ahead of time before the new Sulfur Cap rule enters into force. Consequently, this causes a level of uncertainty concerning the technical problems relating to the new fuels, particularly considering that most of the world fleet will adopt the option of using fuel switching from 3.5% sulfur to 0.5%. To further fuel the uncertainties, it is also a fact that to date, 0.5% fuel does not have a definite and defined price, as this type of sulfur fuel level has not yet been practically tried or treated on the market.
It was brought to the audience’s attention that following the path to reduce harmful emissions, will cause a shocking increase in the CO2 percentage– without any countermeasures in place, from the current 2.3% to 17% by 2050. However, an immediate view to counter this anticipated rising percentage trend would be to focus on increasing the number of building new LNG ships, as well as growing the number of scrubber installations. These two actions are considered to be effective countermeasures to reduce sulfur oxide emissions. Also mentioned among the possible solutions for containing fuel consumption, and therefore reducing emissions, is the option of having better coordination between ships and ports for “Just-In-Time” arrival of ships. This concept would enable ships to receive information in advance so that they can time their arrival at the berth and not wait time outside the port which can further reduce the carbon footprint of shipping as well as saving fuel costs.
Discussion then moved to the subject of the “Ship Implementation Plan” prepared by the IMO which, although not mandatory, can provide valid support for shipping companies in order to comply with the relevant regulation. IMO is still in the process of developing a FONAR (Fuel Oil Non-Availability Report) system, which is the tool that ship owners can use to demonstrate the actual impossibility of obtaining compliant fuel, in certain ports and on specific occasions, despite attempts made.
The Seminar then focused on fuel-traders and specific technical, logistical and commercial aspects which need to be taken into account. For traders, the technical aspects are of fundamental importance for shipowners to know exactly the characteristics of the fuel product being transferred to/from the ship to ensure use of the correct bunker management procedures.
In light of the complications brought to the attention of the audience, Enrico Allieri represented and spoke to the challenges on the table from the shipping companies’ point of view: “The certainties that emerged are very few, and this puts the owners in a difficult position with respect to the choices to be in line with the rule that will come into force seven months from now. There are technical uncertainties, confirmed by the unavailability of a standard for the new fuels that will be placed on the market; uncertainties of a regulatory nature in relation to the use of scrubbers, whose operating standards are established by IMO, but whose use is seeing restrictions by a growing number of ports worldwide, which allow the use exclusively of a “closed-loop” type. Finally, uncertainties of an economic nature, deriving from the unknown amount of the price of both the new 0.5% fuel and the differential of this with the current 3.5%, which is the basis on which the valuation of the investment must be made for the installation of the scrubbers or whether to choose the way of the fuel switch from 3.5% to 0.5%. These uncertainties, together with those concerning the “state of the art” in terms of infrastructure and legislation, regarding the actual possibility of using the LNG, significantly affect the choices which are in progress today.”
The Sulfur Cap 2020 represents, therefore, the final point of the path that led to reducing sulfur in marine fuels from 4.5% before January 2012 to 0.5% starting next year, and at the same time the starting point of the path towards the goal of 2050 in terms of GHG emissions reduction. The thirty years that separate us from 2050 seem like a long time, but this is not the case if the years are compared to the duration of a ship’s life cycle. In fact, ships that take to the water today will cover most of this time interval, if not all of it. So, the choices that are made today will spread their effects for a very long time. Mr. Allieri further stated that “we need to give certainty to the shipping industry, so that we can make technical, economic and environmental sustainability choices, today—in current time–but also, and above all, with a full future perspective ”.
(Text by Assarmatori)”