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Are chemical tankers ready to meet forthcoming IMO fuel regulations?

24 Jan 2019

Hu Qing, Lead Analyst, at independent research consultancy Drewry Maritime Research on Tuesday (22 January) published an article detailing the uptake of scrubber-equipped and LNG-powered chemical tankers in the market leading to IMO 2020:

The impending IMO fuel deadline is creating a dilemma for chemical tanker owners?should they install scrubbers or replace high sulphur fuel (HSFO) by burning cleaner fuels, such as low sulphur fuel oil (LSFO), LPG or LNG?

Space is often limited on a small chemical tanker, so fitting a scrubber is not always an option. And even where space is available, the high capex of $1.5-2.0 million per ship for retrofitting is proving to be a further obstacle.

Current statistics reveal that only 21 chemical tankers in the current fleet have scrubbers installed, while an additional 76 vessels are pending installation as of 1 January 2019. In effect, at the start of 2019, almost 98% of the existing chemical fleet is facing the prospect of having to use high-cost cleaner fuels when the regulation comes into force in 2020.

Table 1: Segment-wise status of scrubber retrofits in chemical tanker fleet

Existing fleet (in number of vessels) Vessels with scrubbers installed Vessels pending scrubber installation Vessels with no scrubbers
< 10,000 stainless 3 0 508
10-25,000 stainless 0 7 505
25-40,000 stainless 6 0 163
40-55,000 stainless 0 0 20
55,000+ stainless 0 0 0
< 10,000 coated 1 0 889
10-25,000 coated 3 7 679
25-40,000 coated 5 1 443
40-55,000 coated 3 61 1,140
55,000+ coated 0 0 41
Total 21 76 4,388

Source: Drewry Maritime Research

Some 18 coated chemical tankers have been converted to use LNG on a dual-fuel basis and there are eight methanol-fuelled vessels (along with four on order) trading chemicals. However, for a large part of the remaining chemical fleet, it looks like more expensive fuel will be the order of the day.

Table 2: Segment-wise breakup of chemical tankers converted to LNG dual-fuel engines

Existing fleet (in number of vessels) Vessels with LNG dual-fuel engines Vessels without LNG dual-fuel engines
< 10,000 stainless 0 511
10-25,000 stainless 0 512
25-40,000 stainless 0 169
40-55,000 stainless 0 20
55,000+ stainless 0 0
< 10,000 coated 0 890
10-25,000 coated 2 689
25-40,000 coated 0 449
40-55,000 coated 16 1,204
55,000+ coated 0 41
Total 18 4,467

Source: Drewry Maritime Research

There is no doubt that between now and the deadline, some further retrofitting of scrubbers will take place. Yet, at best, it can only be small scale, and we think most chemical tankers will be forced to burn cleaner, but higher cost fuels when the IMO regulation comes into force in 2020. This raises the question of whether owners will be able to pass on higher costs to charterers. Given the current dynamics of the sector as a whole, this must be in doubt, and we think profitability in chemical shipping will continue to be squeezed in 2020.

Source: Drewry Shipping Consultants
Published: 24 January, 2019


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