Scrubber fitted box ships will account for 5.9 per cent of the total number of containerships or 11.8 per cent of the total fleet capacity by early 2020, reported Seatrade Maritime News, Colchester, UK.
As of December 10, the number of box ships fitted with scrubbers reached 212 units for 1.79 million TEU, with a further 101 units currently at repair yards undergoing retrofits, according to Alphaliner.
'More scrubber fitted containerships are expected to be delivered in the next two years, including both newbuildings and retrofitted units, that could possibly bring their total number to some 1,000 ships for 10 million TEU by the end of 2022,' Alphaliner stated.
The high take-up rate for scrubbers reflects the attractive economics for these ships with the current price spread for low sulphur fuel oil (LSFO) over heavy fuel oil (HFO) already at US$250 per tonne, which would provide operators of these ships with substantial savings compared to conventional units that would need to switch to 0.5 per cent sulphur fuel.
'However, the long line of containerships waiting to enter repair yards for the installation of scrubbers, coupled with extended yard stays are costing carriers dearly in vessel downtime. For the larger ships, the cost of the downtime could be as much as $30,000 to $50,000 per day,' the analyst observed.
The average yard stay for ships undergoing retrofits in 2019 reached 59 days, with 17 per cent of these ships taking longer than 80 days to complete their retrofits.
'MSC has been the most badly affected by these delays, with at least 15 of its ships clocking yard stays of over 80 days. The yard delays are also causing severe congestion with at least five MSC ships currently waiting for up to eight weeks to enter the repair yards, with shipyards in the Zhoushan region in China especially congested in the last two months,' Alphaliner said.
To-date, MSC has confirmed orders for some 250 scrubbers of which 49 units have been delivered with a further 31 retrofit installations currently in progress.
'These ships will be able to enjoy the lower price of standard heavy fuel oil, with current IFO380 bunker price dropping to just $255 per tonne compared to LSFO price of over $510 per tonne (based on Rotterdam prices),' Alphaliner stated.
Meanwhile, smaller box ships of under 3,000 TEU in capacity have failed to reap any benefits from the scrubber movement, as this market segment continues to be affected by chronic overcapacity.
Only 13 ships of 1,000-2,000 TEU, for instance, have been retrofitted this year, representing one per cent of this size range while a meagre four units are currently in yards for scrubbers.