Faced with the next new global marine pollution rules, shipping firms and insurers are puzzling over the risks.
To scale back emissions of poisonous sulfur that cause premature deaths, shipowners who have long relied on the dirtiest dregs of oil extraction will have to either switch to low-sulfur fuel or install exhaust gas cleaning programs from January 1, 2020.
Neither option has been thoroughly examined for long, and a few problems have already been reported, both with the costlier new fuels and with devices often called scrubbers, which extract the sulfur on board.
Interviews with key players within the industry present various levels of alarm at potential risks, which they say vary from unexpected fires or collisions because of engine failure to liability for inadvertently flouting the principles.
The container shipping sector alone is having to invest $10 billion to adhere to the new guidelines, analysts say, and is concerned about additional prices had been things to go wrong.
If different types of the brand new, cleaner fuel are combined, for example, they might produce a deposit that could clog up an engine and, in a worst-case state of affairs, harm or break it.
Several big ship owners said dealing with the new fuels appropriately and making sure the scrubbers had been appropriately deployed would minimize hazard, however, that if care was not taken, problems could arise.
“The big guys are going to be serviced by the right folks… there is a greater threat for the smaller ships,” Hugo De Stoop, chief executive of leading Belgian tanker operator Euronav said.
Euronav has bought the equal of just about six months’ supply of compliant gas and is storing it in a mega tanker off Malaysia.