Recently ratified EU legislation has created a platform for new market development in shipping technology and clean fuels. The revision of the EU's sulphur in fuels directive implements the global sulphur standards agreed by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) in 2008, ensuring their proper enforcement at EU level.
In North America, equivalent regulation was introduced in August 2012, bringing in stricter controls on emissions of sulphur oxide and nitrogen oxide for ships trading off the coasts of Canada, the United States and the French overseas collectivity of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon.
Arriving into force in 2015, the new European limit will restrict sulphur emissions to 0.1%, a tenth of current levels, in European Sulphur Emissions Control Areas (SECAs), which include the Baltic Sea, the North Sea and the English Channel.
2020 and the way ahead
The next significant milestone in terms of sulphur legislation is scheduled for 2020, at which point a limit of 0.5% will be enforced for ships in non-SECA waters, perhaps most notably the Mediterranean Sea.
This will achieve a sulphur dioxide emissions reduction in shipping of more than 80%. However, it presents ship owners with cost-related and strategic challenges.
"This will have quite substantial impact on marine industries," suggests Juha Kytölä, Wärtsilä's Vice President, Environmental Solutions. "The current round of legislation affects some 8,000 vessels, while the figure of 0.5% has ramifications for up to 40,000 ships."
Ensuring ship owners have effective options
As fleets may take as long as 30-35 years to be completely renewed, clearly both short- and long-term solutions are required.
In the first instance, Wärtsilä aims to strengthen its position as a major supplier of various exhaust gas cleaning systems for maritime applications.
"We supply scrubbers which essentially means we wash the exhaust gases with water," Sigurd Jenssen, Wärtsilä's Director, Exhaust Gas Cleaning explains. "Either using seawater in an open loop mode, or in a closed loop mode with fresh water with the addition of caustic soda in order to absorb the sulphur.
"In light of the recent regulatory changes, we are seeing a lot more interest in exhaust gas cleaning solutions, and ship owners are realizing that they do not have a lot of time to implement this new technology in accordance with the IMO mandate. There are a number of options for owners to consider however, and it's a complicated environment to manoeuvre within while understanding the consequences of running on alternative fuels or installing exhaust gas cleaning systems."
In terms of alternative fuels, LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) offers an economical and environmentally sound solution, and is seen by many as a key opportunity for the shipping industry to comply with sulphur regulation.
LNG offers substantial environmental benefits, reducing sulphur, nitrogen oxide and net greenhouse gas emissions considerably, but enabling wider use of LNG will require significant investments in infrastructure, which Wärtsilä hopes to see in action over the years to come.
In terms of both exhaust gas cleaning and future-oriented sustainable shipping solutions, Wärtsilä seeks to support its customers in meeting the requirements set by this increasingly stringent environmental legislation.