IMO has a lot of regulations in place for air emissions and the 2020 low Sulphur cap is knocking at the door. The IMO emission timeline concerns three types of emissions: SOx, NOx and CO2. The 2020 fuel options are HFO + scrubber, LSHFO and Alternative fuels. Each of them has pros and cons; nothing is really problem-free. To prepare for 2020, options should be evaluated and strategies put in place in order to have the best competitive edge in the market.

If you decide to go for LSHFO compliant fuel, availability is one concern and the quality would be another. And the price of LSHFO fuel could be pretty high.

If you decide to go for scrubber, availability of shipyard spaces for scrubber installation raises another concern. Nevertheless, scrubbers can significantly mitigate the cost impact from the 2020 sulfur cap; but the decision to invest in this should have been made yesterday. Overall, the scrubber population will dwell between 10 to 20 percent of world fleet.

On the other hand, LNG retrofitting is not very attractive because the existing bunker tanks will be redundant, and there will be the need for additional LNG tank onboard which is going to increase the weight of the ship and the consequential cargo carrying capacity. According to various forecasts, LNG will not play a major role in early 2020; but is expected to come in by 2030 through the newbuilding.

So, at the end in the total annual demand of around 230 million tons of fuel, LSHFO will dominate. Overall, development beyond 2020 is uncertain; but after a sudden drop in demand, HSHFO demand will increase with a low gradient for a couple of years.

LSHFO quality will be challenged by the type of cutter stock used to lower the sulfur content. The Delft report explains the sources of various exotic cutter stocks usually appeared in the market. Among all the cutter stocks, the most dangerous one is the chemical waste coming from various industries, the source and the property of which are not well known.

Refiners and Traders will be meeting the demand of LSFO.  The refiners LSF product will be derived through hydrotreating process and part of it from the blending process. Though the blended products from the refiners may not pose any problem, the ones from the traders may do.

2020 fuels will be predominantly paraffinic-based or aromatic-based and will come with different viscosity, pour point and CAT Fines level. Many in the industries were expecting to have a new ISO standard for the 2020 fuel. Next full version of ISO 8217 is not expected until 2022 or later. In the meantime, Publicly Available Specification (PAS) 23263 issued by ISO provides guidance on the concerned properties of 2020 fuels such as stability, compatibility and viscosity. So far, with our limited testing of LSHFO, we have seen some other additional areas of concern e.g. CAT fines, Pour points, Cold Filter Plugging Point (CFPP).

Sulphur never contributed to the energy content of the fuel. It remained as impurities. Hence LSHFO, with its low sulfur content, actually will add more hydrocarbon, which means more energy and more MJ/Kg in the fuel. This is the blessing of LSHFO. On the contrary, Main engine or Auxiliary engines combustibility will be adversely affected especially due to the improper penetration and atomization from some of the very low viscosity fuel, which are lower than the recommended injection viscosities. Additionally, these low viscosity fuels, which will not be heated, will have a lot of leakage from the plunger and barrel. All these compounding factors of poor combustibility and leakage resulting from some of these low viscosity 2020 LSHFO will contribute to the increased consumption and will offset the benefit derived from higher energy content of the LSHFO.

Cylinder Lubrication of the main engines will face problem while using the LSHFO. Till now, CLO of high TBN, generally 80 BN, is being used for the HSHFO. With reduced sulfur in the fuel, the acid neutralization requirement will be curtailed. There are suggestions of using lower TBN of 40 for the LSHFO. The function of CLO is not simply to neutralize the acid. CLO also functions to lubricate the liner surface, allows heat transfer from the rings to the liner and cleans up the carbon deposits and hence works as a dispersant agent. TBN and the dispersing agent go hand in hand. If you lower one, the other one is also lowered. Hence, the lower TBN CLO will fail to keep the engine components clean.

With regards to the alternative fuel options, the most common ones are LNG, LPG, Methanol, Biofuels, Hydrogen and Technology-wise are the batteries, fuel cells and many others. It was earlier predicted that by 2030; 1/3 of the marine fuel will be biofuel. It is not going to happen, as of today, it is pretty expensive.

In the field of energy efficiency, there are a lot of initiatives coming up with EEDI and EEOI or SEEMP. EEDI is for the newbuilds and the EEOI/SEEMP for the existing ships. The gain from EEDI like hull line optimization and many PIDs etc. is very high compared to those from EEOI like slow steaming, trim optimization and hull cleaning etc. Nevertheless, the total gain in energy efficiency is to be derived from the PRODUCT of the GAIN X  NUMBER of vessels. In that comparison, the contribution from SEEMP/EEOI seems to win owing to only a few vessels are being built in recent years.

The energy efficiency drives in shipping came as a sequence of WAVES.

  • The 1st initiative/wave came from slow steaming the ships. It saved a lot of fuel as the relationship between speed and fuel is exponential. By slow steaming, the overall fuel consumption could be reduced by 25%.
  • The 2nd wave was saving fuel through TOOLS, such as Trim Optimization software tool and Hull Line Optimization tool.
  • The 3rd wave of saving fuel was through Propulsion Improvement Devices (PID) like Mewis Duct, Propeller Boss Fin Cap (PBCF) and Bulbous Bow modification.
  • We are now at the 4th and 5th wave of saving fuel and energy through PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT and CREW BEHAVIOUR.

The fuel saving from the 1st wave, i.e. slow steaming was around 25%. From the rest of the post slow steaming initiatives, the savings in total is around another 25%.

Lastly, to mention that, we believe that crew behavior is a key issue in the contribution to energy saving performance; because you can have a lot of initiatives, but if the crew doesn’t take the interest to reduce the fuel consumption and emissions, then all initiatives like trim optimization, slow steaming, carrying less ballast etc. goes in vain.

Concluding, 2020 fuels will have some issues, which need to be tackled to avoid some potential consequences. New fuels like biofuel or Biogenic fuel will be needed to comply with the International Maritime Organization’s recent agreement to reduce GHG emissions by at least half from 2008 levels by 2050. Incremental efficiency gain will also play its part in that reduction goal, especially by mandatory slow steaming for some type of vessels. With the industry depending predominantly on highly polluting heavy fuel oil (HFO), meeting both air quality and climate change objectives will require a transition in the market that the industry has not seen for decades. This shift will be challenging, but it will also create new market opportunities to compete for a share of this 100 billion dollars maritime fuel sector and the disruptors may arise from the non-marine and non-oil majors venturers, which is being seen as a trend in other industries.

Above text is an edited version of Dr. Khorshed Alam’s presentation during the 2019 SAFETY4SEA Singapore Forum.

View his presentation herebelow

The views presented hereabove are only those of the author and not necessarily those of  SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion purposes only.


Dr Khorshed Alam, COO, The Viswa Group of Companies

Dr Khorshed Alam is the Chief Operating Officer of The Viswa Group. Prior to this, Dr Khorshed served as the Vice President and Regional Manager of Maritime Advisory of DNV GL and as the Managing Director of FutureShip, Singapore between 2012 to 2018.He served as the Director of Engineering, Energy management, Environment and Research development in APL (NOL group) from 2006 to 2012.

Dr Khorshed is a chartered engineer and a fellow of IMarEST and RINA. He acquired his Bachelor of Science in Marine Engineering from Australia. Subsequently he received his MSc and PhD in Marine Technology from University of Newcastle upon Tyne, U.K. He also received his second PhD in Environmental Science and Engineering from the National University of Singapore.