Scrubbers punching above their weight

Although only a small minority of vessels have been retrofitted with scrubbers ahead of the January 1st 2020 0.50% sulphur cap, the far larger average size of the vessels being installed with the devices means that more than 10% of the world’s containership capacity will be fitted with scrubbers by January 2020, according to analyst Alphaliner.

Scrubber fitted boxships will account for approximately 5.9% of the total number of containerships and 11.8% of the total fleet capacity by early 2020.

By December 10th, Alphaliner said that the number of containerships fitted with scrubbers had reached 212 units for 1.79m teu, with a further 101 units currently at repair yards undergoing retrofits.

“More scrubber fitted containerships are expected to be delivered in the next two years, including both newbuilds and retrofitted units, that could possibly bring their total number to some 1,000 ships for 10m teu by the end of 2022”, it said.

The current price spread for low sulphur fuel oil (LSFO) over heavy fuel oil (HFO) is $250 per tonne, which, if it continues, would generate a fast payback on the initial expense of having a scrubber fitted.

However, Alphaliner warned that “the long line of containerships waiting to enter repair yards for the installation of scrubbers, coupled with extended yard stays are costing carriers dearly in vessel downtime. For the larger ships, the cost of the downtime could be as much as $30,000 to $50,000 per day”.

The average yard stay for ships undergoing retrofits in 2019 has reached nearly two months. MSC has said that at least 15 of its ships clocking yard had retrofitting stays of more than 80 days. At least five MSC ships have been waiting for up to eight weeks to enter the repair yards, with shipyards in the Zhoushan region in China especially congested in the last two months,” Alphaliner said.

So far MSC has confirmed orders for some 250 scrubbers, of which 49 units have been delivered with a further 31 retrofit installations currently in progress.

In the smaller boxship segment, Alphaliner said it had seen “no expectations of extra demand from scrubber retrofits idling, as very few ships were being retrofitted. Only 13 ships of 1,000-2,000 teu had been retrofitted this year, representing 1% of this size range.