Carnival committed to EGCS as its 2020 compliance solution

Carnival committed to EGCS as its 2020 compliance solution

Global cruise ship operator Carnival Corporation is on a mission: it is prepared to invest $1 billion in exhaust gas cleaning systems (EGCS) by 2020 to comply with current and upcoming sulphur emission regulations, and it would prefer that the technology isn’t referred to as scrubbers.

Whether it will succeed with the latter remains to be seen, but its decision to use EGCS as its route to compliance with MARPOL Annex VI sulphur regulations is firmly within the company’s control. Carnival has already installed the technology on 60 vessels and is on course for having close to 100 ships fitted with EGCS by 2020, “pretty much our entire fleet,” Chris Millman, VP Corporate Marine Technology at Carnival Corporation told a forum organised by IBIA and the UK Chamber of Shipping in April. He said about 90% of all the engines on Carnival’s fleet will be covered by 2020.

With an estimated annual fuel consumption of around 3.5 million metric tonnes (mt), Carnival reckons that EGCS will be a cost-effective solution. If the price differential between the high sulphur fuel oil (HSFO) it can use and low-sulphur fuel for compliance is $200 per mt, the company would potentially save $700 million per year, giving a payback on the investments of about 2 years.

Long term, the company is concerned about the availability of low cost HSFO and the price differential to compliant fuels, but as it is sailing mostly within emission control areas (ECAs), where the sulphur limit is 0.10%, “we see quick payback,” Millman told the IBIA/UK Chamber of Shipping forum in London.

EGCS unit installation on the cruise ship AIDA (Photo: Carnival)

There are other challenges, however, including public perception about the environmental impact of washwater from open loop systems, variations in regulatory regimes and interpretation of regulations, long term system reliability, and technical issues around using the systems and crew training. The latter has been a bigger challenge than expected, Millman noted.

Regarding the environmental impact, Millman said Carnival has installed equipment to monitor the compliance parameters for both exhaust emissions and EGCS washwater. Carnival monitors its fleet remotely at all times so the company can see how the ships comply. Data is stored, allowing the company to demonstrate over 18 months’ worth of compliance records for its ships. According to Millman’s presentation, Carnival is well within all exhaust emissions requirements and the washwater meets all regulatory requirements as well as all major water discharge standards.

Carnival has taken part in a voluntary programme with DNV GL to understand which chemicals are present in the washwater discharge and how the EGCS process may affect water quality. The results – based on 79 washwater samples from the first 23 Carnival vessels with EGCS – were good. The discharge samples met EU drinking water standards apart from two outliers. “The water we pump out is cleaner than the water we take in to use in the system,” Millman said.

One of the biggest challenges for Carnival is the huge variety of different rules for air emissions and washwater, and also the individual state or port authority interpretation of these rules.

For example, the pH limit for washwater varies between the US and those determined by the International Maritime Organization (IMO). There are also different regulations applying when in a number of ports. Even the class societies have different interpretations of the IMO regulations, according to Millman’s presentation.

Carnival is pretty unique in its approach of going all in for abatement technology as its compliance option for sulphur regulations, being the only global operator to send such a clear signal about going this route.  A few short-sea shipping companies with operations exclusively inside ECAs are also choosing this option, though the age and size of vessels plays a big part in retrofit decisions.

Carnival’s Tom Strang, SVP Maritime Affairs, confirmed at the Platts European Bunker Fuel Conference in Rotterdam in May that “EGCS is our primary choice”.  He also highlighted that seven out of 19 newbuilds on order for Carnival are LNG-powered, but said they will all have dual fuel systems in case of issues with LNG availability.

Strang said the company’s ships currently call at 175 ports, taking around 3.3 million mt of fuel per year from around 120 suppliers, and that it currently uses approximately 80% heavy fuel oil and 20% distillate fuels.

Report by Unni Einemo

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