From January 2020, new environmental guidelines of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) apply to global shipping. Since the beginning of the year, all ocean-going vessels must reduce sulphur oxide emissions by 85%, and only fuels with a maximum sulphur content of 0.5% may be burned; before that, the upper limit was 3.5%. Shipowners have various options to comply with the new sulphur limits: Switching to low-sulphur fuels that comply with the new regulations, installing exhaust gas cleaning equipment (so-called scrubbers) or using alternative fuels such as LNG, methanol and others. According to Clarkson Research, at the beginning of January 2020, 1,740 of the total of almost 56,000 ships in the world merchant fleet were equipped with an SOx scrubber. Installation is planned for a further 1,560 units already in service. Some 540 ships with an exhaust gas scrubber are on the order books, which corresponds to 20 % of the total order backlog.
The number of merchant ships that can be operated with liquefied natural gas (LNG) as fuel has tripled in the last ten years, but their share in the total fleet is rather insignificant at around one percent. 555 ships in the fleet and 395 ships on order have been equipped with LNG-compatible engines. This means that the majority of merchant ships run on expensive low-sulphur fuel. Upgrading with exhaust gas purification systems or switching to LNG (still) plays a minor role.
The complete issue of the SSMR 1/2 2020, dealing with the development of the World Merchant Fleet including a huge number of statistics concerning the topic is available via our Webshop.