Scrubber makers “have to educate politicians who go out and make statements they don’t have a clue about,” believes Peter Strandberg, chief executive of scrubber maker Yara Marine.
In an exclusive interview with ShipInsight during last month’s Nor-Shipping exhibition, he referred to the many regional bans on open-loop scrubbers as “political statements” that are “not based on scientific research or any documentation” that scrubber water adds to local pollution. But he acknowledged that the industry could do more to address this lack of understanding. “We have not been good enough to educate them [that] this is scientific [fact].”
This need for education also extends to the general public, he suggested. “We still have to find the right evidence so we can educate the population that this is a better alternative [than 2020-compliant fuel].”
He welcomed reports published earlier this year by DNV GL and Carnival and by the Japanese government, which “have the right approach” and show that “scrubber water is not as bad as everybody believes”, Mr Strandberg said. The reports also show that scrubbers reduce particulate matter compared with compliant fuel, which he said echoes IMO’s intention behind its sulphur cap of reducing air pollution. He also predicted that particulate emissions will be the IMO’s next pollution target.
Asked whether there could be a shortage of heavy fuel oil within five years, as some observers have predicted, he was adamant that it will always be available. Because it is a by-product of refining lighter oils such as diesel, “we can’t just get rid of it. Someone has to use it.” Although small shipowners might be concerned about its future availability, larger ones will not have problems, he said. “If they tell their bunker supplier to jump, he will jump and will get the fuel for them.”
He believes that the price spread between HFO and compliant fuels will widen so using cheaper fuel in a scrubber will be “a win-win”, since it will save money and benefit the environment, both because of the impact on stack emissions and because less CO2 has been created during its production. “I strongly believe that a scrubber is the best alternative for the environment,” he said.
How long it will take to see a return on investment will depend not only the price spread but also on engine size and fuel consumption, but he estimated it would take about two years in some cases or less than one year in others. Scrubbers are expensive and they are complicated to install, so “you need to be sure that this huge and costly equipment will last the life of the ship,” he advised.
Mr Strandberg also urged buyers to consider the amount of servicing they will need, saying that if high quality scrubbers are fitted, “you should have a maintenance-free lifetime,” apart from their rotating elements. Yara Marine is “focused on quality”, he said, and “if you are not going to buy the right quality, sooner or later you will have some problems,” he warned.