By Spyros A. Zolotas, RINA Area Manager Greece & Cyprus
It is well recognised that ship owners worldwide have been reluctant to proceed to retrofits of engines burning LNG as fuel since the supply infrastructure in place and bunker supply firms, ports and terminals are limited.
It is the chicken and egg problem.
Unless further investments in that respect are done in order to extensively support these infrastructures, it is unlikely to see any dramatic change of the current status.
No one wants to make the first investment not knowing whether others will follow.
It is difficult to decide to invest a considerable amount of millions in a bunkering tanker when the first question is about the market itself that such a vessel would serve.
The question is when this market will be developed?
And when will LNG be convenient from a technical and economical point of view?
At present, with the bunker price dropping, the importance of the financial issue both for the investment in LNG infrastructure and for LNG new building or LNG retrofitting of existing vessels is an additional problem to be carefully considered.
On the other end LNG is an answer to reduce the impact of pollutant such as NOx and SOx in the environment, pollutants that have been recognised at international level as responsible for eutrophication, acid rains and health problems.
In addition, the particulate resulting from the combustion of marine fuel oil may damage especially sensitive ecosystems.
It is well known that Black Carbon is not healthy for human beings, directly absorbs energy when suspended in the atmosphere and cause ice and snow melting when deposited.
Research studies show that black carbon plays a role second only to carbon dioxide in climate change.
The use of LNG as fuel will definitely minimise the emission of black carbon too.
Other proven technologies, like scrubbers, are also available and may be the solution and choice of many ship owners for next years. But LNG is here to stay and seems to be the solution for the future. Many owners are going to retrofit their vessels installing scrubbers; very few have made the choice to retrofit an existing ship to LNG.
An important parameter for the decision to proceed to such retrofits would be mainly the expected amount of time that a vessel is operating in ECA areas and of course such an investment depends on the residual life and value of the vessel under concern. An extension of ECA areas would change more dramatically the scene while Europe and the Mediterranean could be crucial areas where retrofits will be considered and all involved stakeholders need to be prepared on time.
Classification societies with their own rules and acting as Recognised Organisations (RO) of the various Flag Administrations are expected to play a crucial role in the LNG projects.
Every time a new rule is developed by the legislator, the RO’s role becomes important to ensure a safe, correct and in line with the rule / law philosophy application of the relevant principles and requirements. Such principles and requirements are to be incorporated and verified in the details of the various techniques and solutions proposed by the industry in order to be compliant, ensuring uniform interpretation and application too.
RINA with its experience and know-how is prepared to face the challenges of the future and is ready to assist its clients in the proper and safe steps to be taken for any existing vessel or new building project.