Six months in advance of the entry into force of a global marine fuel sulphur cap of 0.50%, the number of ships fitted with exhaust gas cleaning systems (EGCS) by 1 January 2020 is set to be around 4,000.
To aid operators in avoiding issues with local regulations, the Exhaust Gas Cleaning System Association EGCSA has launched a free to access global database concerning operating rules for EGCS at www.egcsa.com for those ship-owners who have invested in achieving a cleaner environment with the help of EGCS.
The ship-owners who have invested in a cleaner environment now face a degree of uncertainty over the operation of EGCS. To assist in removing uncertainty and inaccurate information, the free to access global EGCSA operational database takes the form of a world map with a zoom-in facility that makes it possible to identify individual wharfs and quays and see if there are any restrictions on the operation of EGCS in place. The database provides links and verified information on legislation or rules that have been imposed. Verification material is included on the database.
The Clean Shipping Alliance 2020 (a ship-owners organisation) has approached numerous ports to identify any local rules. The International Chamber of Shipping has also sought feedback from its ship-owner community. The work of these organisations and any other interested groups will also be incorporated into the EGCSA database once verified, thus ensuring the most comprehensive and up-to-date verified information is made available to ship operators around the world.
Consultants to IMO, CE Delft, had forecast some 3,000 ships would be fitted with EGCS by 2020. This investment in exhaust gas cleaning systems by a substantial portion of ship-owners will also benefit those ship-owners who have chosen to do nothing and plan just to procure fuel that complies with IMO limits. The significant number of ship-owners who have opted for EGCS will alleviate some of the pressure on 0.50% sulphur fuel supplies as they are likely to reduce global demand by approximately 18%.
When the administrations meeting at IMO decided to set the date for the entry into force of the sulphur cap as 1 January 2020 instead of 2025 it was in part due to the CE Delft forecast. This report implied that a shortage of compliant fuel would likely be diminished by that time. For ships with high fuel consumption, the benefits of using EGCS translate into lower operating costs, reduced overall greenhouse gas emissions/tonne of fuel consumed, a cut in particulate emissions of at least 80% and a decrease in overall sulphur oxide emissions below IMO prescribed levels compared to those ship-owners who have chosen to simply switch fuels. This capital-intensive investment by some ship-owners will, in other words, benefit the entire industry whilst improving air quality. Initial findings from recent studies produced in Japan and presented by CE Delft to the 74th IMO session on 14 May have furthermore shown that ships operating open-loop EGCS will have close to zero impact on the quality of harbour waters, data that contradicts claims about the negative effect of scrubber process water.
IMO’s role in the 2020 regulation has been to introduce more environmentally sound shipping whilst enabling world trade to proceed unencumbered. In most cases, new regulations are observed by all administrations at IMO. Unfortunately, a handful of nations and ports have decided to operate independently of the IMO and have introduced local requirements for the operation of EGCS. This unilateral action, albeit limited, has created a degree of uncertainty at a time when there is a significant body of opinion that regard air quality and GHG emissions as critical to the future of mankind. Whilst the EGCSA and other bodies such as the Clean Shipping Alliance (CSA) 2020 cannot prevent unilateral actions by ports and regions, there is an ongoing effort to ensure that governmental bodies, port authorities and decision makers are adequately informed of current research findings and data – data which has not identified any short- or long-term impact on the environment .