IMO 2020 is now in force. Many shipowners have already equipped tonnage with exhaust gas cleaning systems (EGCS) to meet the global sulphur cap and more are expected to follow suit in the months ahead. While manufacturing capacity in both Europe and Asia has risen to meet demand, material shortages are proving problematic and installation capacity remains constrained.

Fabian Kock, the head of environmental certification at DNV GL, says there is a four- to five-month backlog of vessels that should have been retrofitted with scrubbers by the end of last year. In a recent Q&A posted on the classification society’s EGCS portal he argued that both material shortages and limited yard capacity are to blame.

“For example, there is only a limited number of manufacturers of GRE pipes in China where most scrubbers are installed,” Kock explained. “Designers and yards have a high workload of retrofit installations, and lack of staff has doubled the installation time at yards from 40 to 80 days. At the same time, class societies have had to cope with a higher number of vessels needing to be surveyed during peak times.”

Global Echo completed its first retrofit in five days (with pre-installation). The project involved the 150,000-dwt tanker Elandra Eagle (built 2009), which is managed by LSC. Photo: Global Echo

Kock acknowledged that the recent coronavirus outbreak has complicated the situation as well. “Workers may be unavailable at some Chinese repair yards where many vessels are waiting for scrubbers to be installed,” he said. “The epidemic is also affecting sea trail attendance and travel restrictions have been put in place in some jurisdictions.”

These issues—among others—have prompted a number of shipowners to explore EGCS solutions outside of China. In South Korea, a scrubber outfit that debuted in 2018 looks particularly well placed to capitalise on demand for systems that can be delivered, installed and tested in a reasonable amount of time: Global Echo.

Global Echo, which is based in Ulsan, was founded by chairman Seo Minsu. Photo: Global Echo

Global Echo is equipped to complete retrofits in as few as five months. Drydocking isn’t required, which gives the MS-SOx system an edge in an increasingly competitive market.

“Through 20 reference projects, Global Echo has disproved the need for drydock retrofitting, instead carrying out the work on the wharf in less than half the 40-day period associated with a drydock retrofit,” it said. “In one month alone, Global Echo made three wharf-side retrofit projects simultaneously in three weeks, an unofficial world record, without a single failure.”

The projects to which it refers include a mix of large bulkers and tankers controlled by the likes of Vitol, Zodiac Maritime and Hyundai Merchant Marine.

VLOC retrofit

This video shows a retrofit project involving a 300,000-dwt bulker during a voyage from China to Brazil. The 3D scanning took place on 14 July 2019 and the retrofit work was done on 21st October 2019.

Global Echo opened its doors in 2018. Initial contracts came by word of mouth. Today, the company hopes to build on this momentum by mounting a formal marketing initiative aimed at beefing up its backlog for 2020—and beyond.

Global Echo is currently offering scrubbers for delivery in June 2020. Whether you’re interested in its system, or a competitor’s, all are invited to get in touch.

As TradeWinds has reported, demand for scrubbers has declined from the exceptionally high levels seen in 2018 as a result of uncertainty related to the price, quality and availability of low-sulphur fuel but remains relatively robust.

Today, industry insiders say that fuel price spreads are supportive of investments in scrubber technologies and note that EGCS-equipped bulkers, tankers and containerships are commanding premiums in many corners of the chartering market. As such, its widely believed that retrofit activity will rise in the second half of this year.