The first option concerns use of low sulphur fuel, created by an extended refining process, during which a greater percentage of the sulphur content is removed. When used as fuel in ships, it will automatically produce exhaust gases containing considerably less SOx.

Although LSFO can be used in most conventional marine diesel engines without the need to install further, hugely expensive scrubbing equipment, the longer refining process can cost up to 50% more. In addition, there there have been reports of a lack of availability in LSFO, while the build-up of
cat fines inside ships’ engines that use LSFO is a significant area of concern.

The second option concerns cleaning of the exhaust gases better before they are released, with the use of scrubbers installed on vessels that can continue to operate using HSFO. These systems work by scrubbing the exhaust gases produced by ship engines with greater efficiency before their release into the atmosphere, to achieve the levels of emission that are acceptable. By continuing to run on HSFO, the fuel costs can be kept down, especially as it is anticipated that the price of HSFO may reduce significantly, once 2020 arrives. What is more, with the current, plentiful supply of HSFO around the world, there should be no issue over finding adequate supplies in ports, at least for the time being.

However, the installation of new, adequate scrubbing equipment can be very costly, as it may cost up to US$10 million to install such equipment per vessel. In addition, relying on the scrubbers to achieve the low levels of permitted SOx emissions required would expose ship operators to huge operational headaches should scrubbing equipment ever break down while the vessel is at sea.

The third option concerns use of LNG or hydrogen as a fuel, considerably “greener” alternatives to oil. This could generally reduce SOx emissions by 90% – 95% and is seen as probably the longer-term solution to the ship fuel emissions issue.

On the other hand, it may not be economically viable to convert existing ships to run on LNG, as they would need to be re-engined. The issue of availability is also a disadvantage, as few ports dispose the relevant infrastructure. Furthermore, one of the main reasons why shipowners are hesitating over the adoption of LNG as fuel is the large amount of space on board vessels that the fuel store and insulation equipment require.


In view of the imminent regulations, SAFETY4SEA has launched a new survey to address future key challenges and shed light to gray areas that may inherent compliance. Click here to have your say in the SAFETY 2020 Fuel Options Survey


Explore more by reading the full 'Emissions Regulations: Concerns for the Marine Industry' report herebelow: