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In its latest weekly report, shipbroker Intermodal said that “in light of Denmark’s contemplation of a ban on scrubber washwater discharge, an assessment of the global stance on exhaust gas cleaning systems is paramount for stakeholders in the shipping industry. Scrubbers, introduced to align with IMO’s sulfur emissions regulations, have been instrumental in allowing ships to continue using HSFO by cleaning exhaust before it is released into the atmosphere. However, the washwater discharged, particularly from open-loop and hybrid systems, raises environmental concerns due to its content of harmful substances like polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and heavy metals, associated with significant risks to marine life”.

According to Intermodal’s Research Analyst, Ms. Chara Georgousi, “the global scrutiny over scrubber discharge has intensified, with various jurisdictions imposing outright bans or stringent restrictions. Our latest data shows 93 measures are in force across 45 countries, predominantly prohibiting open-loop scrubber discharge. The response from national and sub-national authorities has been varied, with most European restrictions arising at the port level, contrasting with the Americas where national and port-level measures are more evenly distributed. Asia and Africa tend to implement national-level restrictions, reflecting differing regional regulatory approaches”.

“Denmark’s proposed ban aligns with a growing trend focusing on territorial waters and port areas, with 58% of existing measures instituted by port authorities. The upcoming decision by Denmark could significantly impact the Baltic Sea’s regulatory landscape and encourage further restrictions within the region. Concurrently, the integration of scrubbers into the global maritime fleet is advancing, with 5,597 ships, representing 5.13% of the world’s total fleet already fitted with this technology. Bulk carriers are leading the charge in adopting scrubbers, followed by container ships and oil/chemical tankers, indicating a sector-wide commitment to reducing sulfur emissions. A vast majority of these vessels, precisely 82.15%, are equipped with open-type scrubbers, with hybrid systems installed on 15.89%, and closed-type scrubbers on just 1.33%, according to DNV data. The adoption trend suggests an upward trajectory in scrubber-equipped ships expected by 2026, which will likely have a significant impact on freight market dynamics”, Ms. Georgousi said.

She added that “fuel cost disparities are also a key consideration in operational economics. The price differential between HSFO and VLSFO has contracted to around $150 per tonne on average in major ports, marking a $50 reduction from earlier in 2023. This narrowing of the HSFO-VLSFO spread may alter the financial viability of scrubbers, potentially affecting future installation rates and operational strategies in the shipping sector. Such market trends are vital for shipping companies to monitor as they navigate the evolving regulatory and economic landscape”.

The shipbroker concluded that the “the forecast for the shipping industry suggests an impending pivot towards more environmentally compliant alternatives. Closed-loop and hybrid scrubbers in zero-discharge mode, along with low-sulfur fuels, will become more prevalent as regulatory pressures mount. Shipping firms should prepare for an uptick in capital and operational costs associated with these compliance measures, which could, in turn, influence freight rates. Additionally, ports that swiftly adapt to stricter environmental standards may gain competitive advantages, attracting business from environmentally conscious shippers and charterers”.

Source : Nikos Roussanoglou, Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide /Maasmond Maritime