The impending IMO fuel deadline is creating a dilemma for chemical tanker owners as to whether to 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 the high cost of retrofitting a scrubber at around $1.5-$2 mill per ship is proving to be a further obstacle, Drewry Shipping Consultants said in an industry note.
Current statistics revealed that only 21 chemical tankers in the current fleet have scrubbers installed, while an additional 76 vessels are pending installation as of 1st January, 2019.
This means that 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, Drewry said.
Some 18 coated chemical tankers have been converted to use LNG on a dual-fuel basis and there are eight methanol-fuelled vessels, plus four on order, trading chemicals.
Between now and the deadline, further scrubber retrofits will take place. Yet, at best, this will only be a small number.
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 is in doubt, and Drewry thought that profitability in chemical shipping will continue to be squeezed in 2020.