Shipowners’ experiences of scrubbers

May 28 2020

A London meeting of the Clean Shipping Alliance included a shipowners panel, where representatives of Spliethoff, Grimaldi and Genco Shipping shared their experiences with scrubbers.

A meeting in London in February of the Clean Shipping Alliance (CSA), an organisation of shipping companies using scrubbers, included a shipowner panel, where representatives of Spliethoff, Grimaldi and Genco Shipping shared their experiences.


None of these companies are operating tankers. but their experience should be relevant to Tanker Operator magazine readers.


Spliethoff operates 50 multipurpose dry cargo vessels from 12,000 to 23,000 DWT.


Genco Shipping and Trading provides dry bulk transportation of iron ore, coal, grain, steel products and other drybulk cargoes, with a fleet of Capesize, Panamax, Ultramax, Supramax and Handysize vessels.


Grimaldi Group operators roll-on / roll-off vessels, car carriers and ferries.  Shipping companies in the group include Atlantic Container Line, Finnlines (a ro-ro operator) and Minoan Lines (a ro-ro operator),



When asked about his experience with scrubbers, Arne Hubregtse, technical director and member of executive board, Spliethoff, said that it could be simply stated as “good”.


“We have not had any major problems or any breakdown issues. There were some installation issues, but no major issues in operation,” he said. “So we are quite satisfied, and look forward to operating for a long time.”


Spliethoff has been operating scrubbers for about 10 years. The company decided to equip all of its vessels with scrubbers. There are about 20 further to go. The work started about 6 years ago.


The vessels operate in Europe’s Special Emission Control Areas (SECA), with sulphur limits now of 0.1 per cent.


The scrubbers have been installed in a variety of vessels, including heavy lift and multipurpose vessels. There was no impact on overall cargo carrying capability, “apart from a minor deadweight reduction. Sometimes you have to sacrifice a fuel tank,” he said.


The main reason for installation was risk management, with high levels of uncertainty about the availability and price of low sulphur oil, the alternative means of operating with low sulphur emissions.


“From the environmental point of view, a scrubber plus heavy fuel oil is the best intermediate solution,” he said.


In terms of corrosion, Mr Hubregtse said the company did not have any corrosion issues. But “you do need to do your homework. Choose your materials correctly. You know what's potentially going to go wrong so focus on that.”


When asked what he thinks the industry will look like in 10 years, his reply was that it is still an open question. “A lot of research is going on. We will burn fossil fuels and a combination of biofuels. We need to go to green fuels - green ammonia.”


But there are many technologies and challenges to overcome meanwhile, such as improving energy density, storage, operating temperatures and pressures. “There is a lot of research going on by engine manufacturers to find a solution.”


When assessing a fuel, it very important to assess the total amount of CO2 emitted, known as “well to wake”, he said.



Dario Bocchetti, head of the energy saving and innovation department of Grimaldi Group, said the company has a project to fit scrubbers on 100 vessels, which is now 70 per cent complete.


The project started in 2014 with vessels under two of its “brands”, Finnlines, which operates ro-ro and passenger services in the Baltic and North Sea, and Atlantic Container Lines, which operates large roll-on/roll-off container ships between Europe and North America.


There were some installation challenges, with “congestion” at shipyards installing the scrubbers, with engineering work being the main bottleneck, he said.


A retrofit has been possible in “80 per cent of cases.” The work proved “very easy” compared to retrofitting a vessel to run on LNG fuel, he said.


A scrubber can weigh between 30 and 100 tonnes. In a few cases, there was a need to review whether it would affect vessel stability. Although a conversion to LNG propulsion, including carrying LNG tanks, would take up more space.


Grimaldi decided to “overcomply” with legislation, now reducing emissions to the equivalent of using 0.1 per cent sulphur fuel. It means “we have full control of the operation,” he said.


The running hours for operation are “higher than 90 per cent,” he said.


You do need to train crew how to use the equipment, and work out management processes. But “we don’t see any big issues,” he said.


Ships fitted with scrubbers today will still be using them in 10 years’ time. “Exhaust gas cleaning systems is a good solution for ships in service [today].”


Scrubbers have been used for many years on land, and on ships for 10 years. So corrosion issues are fairly well understood now. “You need to apply proper measures,” he said.



Captain Robert Hughes, chief operating officer, Genco Shipping and Trading, said the company is installing open loop scrubbers on its Capesize fleet of 17 vessels, the most recent of which entered service in January 2020.


Captain Hughes sees scrubbers as a mature technology, which has been used for many years, including on tankers to inert cargo tanks.


A great deal of thought has gone into how to implement the scrubbers. “If anything, we over-thought it,” he said.


The company decided to have an extra engineer onboard to manage the scrubbers and also to reduce overall risks to the company.


It is important to have a plan around corrosion. “We operate in a saltwater environment and things do rust out,” he said. “You need to have a plan of action in place as you would with any system.”


You need to work out how much spares to carry.


“We've had no breakdowns, we haven't experienced any issues. But a lot of that is due to good planning, planning for performance. You must do the mental heavy lifting ahead of time, choose the right supplier, and identify where there could be some limitations and vulnerability.


But companies running vessels with low sulphur fuel also have to do a great deal of thinking and planning, he said. “The way we bunkered before 2020 is different to how we do it now. It requires more effort.”


The overall environmental argument with the atmosphere could be to leave it better than you found it, as “I like to say to my kids at the camp ground.”


The scrubbers can clean up sulphur to the same emissions level as if the fuel contained 0.1 per cent sulphur.


“As an industry we are getting better with air emissions, moving from 3.5% to 0.50%, and that's a step in the right direction, a solid step forward for improving air quality.


“Can we get better? Yes. I think that we should always challenge ourselves. I think we will begin to look at technologies that are already employed and look at ways of improving them. We just need to keep pushing ourselves as an industry to keep going and don't settle.”


Mr Hughes was asked how Port State Control react to the scrubbers. “They are keen to come on board and have a tour of the system,” he said. “They are keen to understand the different systems and technologies out there and see how they work. Every display is a bit different. They are very curious.”


“It is important that we demonstrate what's going on and explain the science behind it.”


In terms of future fuels, “it could be ammonia, hydrogen, biofuels in 10 years,” he said. “But it is at nascent stages, based on what I’m reading.”


About CSA

The Clean Shipping Alliance is a group of commercial shipping and cruise companies formed in September 2018, focussed on open- and closed-loop Exhaust Gas Cleaning Systems (EGCS), the more formal name for scrubbers, and associated air and water emissions.


There are 36 members. Members operating tankers include Blystad Group, Capital Ship Management, Chandris (Hellas) Inc., Delta Tankers, DHT, Dorian LPG, Eastern Pacific Shipping, Frontline, Golar, Hunter Group, ICBC, International Seaways, Laskaridis Shipping, Navig8, DS Norden, Okeanis, Olympic Shipping, Solvang, Torm, Trafigura, and Union Maritime.


The members have been involved in emission control efforts, and made investments in research and analysis, and in equipment, to comply with the 2020 fuel requirements using EGCS.


The stated purpose of the Alliance is to “provide information and research to better inform industry, national and international authorities, non-governmental organizations and the public on the environmental performance and benefits of EGCS.”


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