How shipowners go about financing scrubber installations is attracting criticism across the globe.
Scrubbers have hit the mainstream press headlines recently, especially open loop ones, with concern growing that the technology will not help improve the environment. Nevertheless, there are estimated to be at least 2,000 scrubbers installed come the January 1, 2020 implementation of the global sulphur cap, led by large, listed shipowners who have moved to install exhaust gas cleaning systems on their biggest ships.
There are an increasing number of listed shipowners such as John Fredriksen, Scorpio and most recently Torm who have opted to buy into scrubber manufacturers. This type of investment strategy is now being questioned
Vinay Gupta, managing director of Singapore shipmanager Union Marine Management Services, told Splash today: “With the recent trend for the public listed companies to enter joint ventures with scrubber manufacturers the headlines should be how the public’s money is being washed down through the scrubbers into the coffers of some individuals.”
Gupta continued: “It is no mystery why public listed companies are seeing scrubbers as an alternative whereas the serious shipowners are not. This nexus between the scrubber manufacturers and the public listed owners reminds me of the idiom: ‘You scratch my back and I scratch yours’.”
Renowned ship financier and Splash columnist Dagfinn Lunde also has taken aim at the financing of scrubbers. In an upcoming column due to be published on this site later this week, Lunde takes attacks the raft of banks espousing to be taking environmentally friendly decisions in extending credit lines who have helped owners buy scrubbers.
“Scrubbers are a cheat and it is a travesty – though sadly not surprising – the so-called ‘green’ banks have been happy to extend credit lines to their biggest shipping clients to buy these polluter diluters,” Lunde writes in his latest column for Splash.
Tanker giant Euronav and its CEO, Paddy Rodgers, have been among the most vocal opponents of scrubber technology in recent months. Euronav’s third quarter results, published at the end of last month, stated: “Promoters of [scrubbers] argue that the open oceans dilute waste water, rendering it harmless. But the solution to pollution is not dilution. Like plastic contamination over the years, we don’t know what the cumulative effect of this waste water will be or how it will interact with existing seaborne pollutants, particularly in congested sea-lanes like the English Channel, Malacca Straits or Baltic Sea.”
Diane Gilpin from the Smart Green Shipping Alliance suggested today scrubbers were a misplaced investment, telling Splash: “We are witnessing the effects of leaving necessary action to reduce emissions too late and aiming only for compliance. This hastiness has resulted in expensive, dubious decisions. Strategic investments in solutions to reduce overall fuel consumption are better business and more ethical, leading to long-term sustainability for investors and financiers.”
Faig Abbasov from NGO Transport & Environment concurred, telling Splash: “Scrubbers will make decarbonisation process a much more painful and disruptive process for the industry and waste billions of investment into dead-end technology.”
The Norwegian Maritime Authority has recently stated it is considering banning all ships with scrubbers – whether open, closed or hybrid – from entering many of its pristine fjords, with a number of famous names in shipping predicting that open loop scrubbers could be banned worldwide in the near future.