US-based container carrier Matson has started the installation of exhaust gas cleaning systems on six vessels deployed in its Hawaii and China-Long Beach Express services.
The company said that three of the vessels would receive the new equipment in 2019 and the remaining three in 2020, as part of Matson’s strategy to reduce fleet emissions in line with the International Maritime Organization’s sulphur cap.
While new low-sulfur fuels designed to meet the new IMO emission standard have been in development for years in anticipation of the change, there is still uncertainty about their costs and availability, the company explained. While liquefied natural gas (LNG) is an alternative, Matson said that the infrastructure for production and distribution is insufficient to support its operations in the Pacific.
“Because of unpredictability in the way fuel markets may develop over the next few years, Matson’s IMO compliance strategy retains the flexibility to implement the most economical solution as conditions evolve,” said John Lauer, senior vice president and chief commercial officer.
Matson embarked on a fleet renewal program, replacing older vessels with four new ships that are equipped with dual-fuel engines designed to run on new low-sulfur fuels or LNG. The other main component of Matson’s strategy involves expanded use of scrubbers, which enable vessels to achieve compliance with the new IMO regulations while continuing to use existing higher sulfur fuels. Matson installed scrubber systems on three vessels in its Alaska fleet in 2015 and 2016.
“Similar to the systems Matson deploys in Alaska, the scrubber technology being installed in the six additional vessels will reduce sulfur oxides (SOx) emissions to levels at or below the limits set by the new IMO regulations, and below those of vessels using low-sulfur fuel.”
With the deployment of dual-fuel engines in new ships and scrubbers in additional vessels, the company expects to be able to meet or exceed the IMO 2020 emission standard while mitigating the expected higher cost of low-sulfur fuel over more than half of its current fleet.