An opportunity for debate and confrontation with the aim of being always up to date on the news that, from a little here, will advance the shipping sector. This is the spirit that has driven Assarmatori’s Technical Commission, “Ship Technology, Marine Safety & Environment” to organize the Open Session entitled, “Fuels for marine propulsion. Sulphur Cap 2020 and beyond ” which was held in Rome on May 28th.
The central topic of the meeting is focused around the issue of the imminent “switch” to new generation fuels. Indeed, from January 1, 2020, the maximum permitted worldwide sulfur content in naval fuels will increase from the current 3.5% to 0.5% and tens of thousands of ships will be affected by this new rule, while the even more stringent limit of the 0.1% has already been in force for the Emission Control Areas (ECAs) in North America and Europe. However, a few months after their entry into force the unknowns, both of a technical and logistical nature, and not to mention those of an economic nature, have not been entirely dispelled.
The president of Assarmatori, Dr. Stefano Messina, pointed out that in view of this transition, it is necessary to focus attention, not only on the development of material infrastructures, but also and above all on intangible ones, especially missing still in the new regulation and in the qualifications of the personnel needing to know how to operate effectively in this new upcoming scenario that will soon be upon us.
To introduce the topics covered by the meeting, Assarmatori’s Engineer, Enrico Allieri, stated that the “entry of these new fuels will lead shipping towards the improvement of its environmental compatibility. This is a goal that must be achieved by maintaining the same levels of economic development, without reducing maritime traffic. The new fuels must be such as to provide the necessary energy, increasing energy efficiency but decreasing harmful emissions. It is a virtuous change but still dominated by many perplexities “.
The word passed then to representatives of the General Command of the Corps of the Capitanerie di Porto, Admiral C.A. (CP) Luigi Giardino discussed alternative fuels and LNG with a focus on legislation and future developments, while the T.V. (CP) Stefano Carnevali explained in-depth and with great detail exercising Port State Control (PSC) authority in its application of MARPOL with particular reference to the 0.5% sulfur legislation. In relation to the LNG, Admiral Giardino did not fail to stress that in some instances the main problems are due to a lack of infrastructures suitable for the purpose. Furthermore, the Admiral pointed out that the construction of a prototype of a laboratory boat of about 25 meters on which to test a fuel cell generation system is in progress.
To conclude the first half of the Open Session, Engineer Stefano Furlan of Wartsila then highlighted his commitment to “working not only with the scrubber(s) and LNG, but also to optimize and implement new and existing technologies.” From this point of view, he further stated that, “the future of shipping appears as a hybrid ecosystem, in which numerous technologies will coexist and be integrated with each other”.
The second half of the event had a more technical overtone, starting from the presentation of the Engineer, Giuseppe Gargiulo, who shared with the audience the experience of MSC’s technical office on scrubber management and the switch process to which the Sulphur Cap will lead. Also discussed were the technical characteristics with regard to new fuels, as well as elements relating to compatibility, stability and related legislation.
Next, Ms. Silvia Faccini of ENI, presentation raised the issue that even if the doubts on the subject of the new fuel are not few, first of all the one relating to the price of the new fuel is an important factor that is not yet known, and as pointed out by Dr. Lorenzo Buffoni of Alpha Trading: “the availability of 0.5 fuel in the Mediterranean is guaranteed, but the prices of this new fuel are still uncertain and it is difficult to make estimates. We can hypothesize that the cost will surely be higher than that of 3.5 fuels (which will certainly fall further) and probably will follow that of 0.1 diesel with a discounted price compared to this. Furthermore, it must also be considered that the final price will take into account the extra costs deriving from the transport and storage of the new fuel”.
He further mentioned that it must also be considered that the final price will go to affect extra costs deriving from the transport and storage of the new fuel. Therefore, trying to summarize what will be the new possible scenario that will have to face in just over six months may include: shipowners being required to use more capital; suppliers and operators having to face a market that has greater credit exposures; having to request access to higher liquidity levels; and having shorter payment terms to meet bunker costs which, on the other hand, will need to increase”.
On the subject of LNG bunkering and infrastructure, Dario Soria, counsel of Assocostieri, spoke of “complicated logistics but with innovative solutions in the pipeline”. In addition, and citing the president of Assarmatori, Mr Soria recalled how “it is important to work and invest also in the direction of intangible infrastructures, and also here with the definition of univocal procedures for bunkering activities and the training and requalification of personnel”.
The Chairman of the Technical Commission of Assarmatori, Engineer Stefano Beduschi, stated in closing that: “An opportunity for useful discussion to be proposed again and again, encouraging the participation of our associates and all stakeholders, in order to be able to share important topics on which to discuss in order to raise awareness on these issues and stay up to date on how much revolves around the world of shipping “.