Interest in scrubber retrofits is growing as the difference in price between low and high-sulphur bunkers explodes, according to Tamara de Gruyter.

The president of marine systems at exhaust cleaner manufacturer Wartsila said the situation is “looking good”.

The price differential is approaching $600 per tonne between high-sulphur fuel oil (HSFO) and very low-sulphur fuel oil (VLSFO), TradeWinds has reported.

De Gruyter said the war in Ukraine is tragic, but a good side effect for Wartsila has been the fuel spread “going through the roof”.

She told TradeWinds: “On the other hand, it hasn’t translated yet into big ordering, but we can see that the appetite is increasing.

“So I do believe in the second half of the year we will see at least the retrofit part coming back.”

De Gruyter argues the business case makes so much sense.

She said one of the big shipping lines, with some scrubbers fitted, likened the technology to having “ATMs on board”, pumping out cash.

“That gave me a bit of trust and confidence,” De Gruyter said. “It seems we might get another boom.”

But with container ship and bulker rates healthy, and tankers improving, there remains the question of when owners will be happy to pull their vessels out of the market and into a shipyard for retrofits.

“It will be a balance,” De Gruyter said.

Wartsila has said demand for scrubbers is still mostly coming from owners with new ships under construction.

Decarbonisation progress being made

Roger Holm, marine power president at Wartsila. Photo: Wartsila

The group is also continuing work on developing new clean-fuel engines.

Marine power president Roger Holm told TradeWinds: “It’s not the technology, it will be the fuel availability that will be the key here, how to get access to green fuels in the market.”

Methanol engines are a reality already and Holm said an ammonia concept will be ready in 2023. Product launches will come after that.

“We are talking to a lot of stakeholders in the industry, it’s a lot about collaborating now, with owners, yards, equipment providers, fuel providers,” Holm said.

He added that these partnerships are needed to solve the “chicken and egg” problem, ie which will come first, the fuel infrastructure or the ships that will use it?

Holm is seeing more and more demand for these collaborations.

“The more we go into future fuel, it is a trend we see developing,” he said.