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Editor in chief: Angelo Scorza
07/10/19 10:43

Grimaldi invested in scrubbers, while “dreaming” of hydrogen

Fume scrubbers will soon be installed on 100 ships of the company’s fleet. As concerns low-sulphur bunker fuel: “It is too expensive; oil majors and refineries are taking advantage of it”

Giardini Naxos – During the 23rd edition of the Euro-Med Convention – the annual event organized by the Grimaldi group since 1997 (this year the summit was held in Giardini Naxos in Sicily) – they inevitably focused also on environmental sustainability, both because it is a very current issue and because shipowners will have to comply with IMO2020 regulations soon.

Said regulations will imply a drastic change for the international maritime industry, causing the sector’s operators to make significant investments to adapt their fleets: “Shipowners must do their part, and the goal is achieving zero emissions by 2050”, Neaples-based shipping company managing director Manuel Grimaldi declared in his opening speech.

Besides this long-term objective, according to Grimaldi “in the short-term we need to focus on the retrofitting of the existing fleet”.

In fact, the company already took several measures: “We do not have a single solution for everything, rather we need to adopt different technologies: from scrubbers to paints reducing the friction of hulls in the water, or even the use of batteries allowing to eliminate emissions when ships are in ports”.

The latter solution was already adopted by Grimaldi on its ferries Cruise Roma and Cruise Barcelona, which were recently lengthened by Fincantieri in Palermo, with a 100 million euro investment.

Also the 12 new Ro-Ro GG5G units, with a 64,000 gross tonnage and a 7,800 linear meters capacity, under construction in the Chinese Jinling Shipyard will feature the same technology, and the first one will be delivered in June 2020.

The hybrid supply will allow these units to zero their impact during stops in ports, but not to comply with the new sulphur restrictions which will enter into force from January the 1st 2020: “To that end, we believe that, at present, scrubbers are the best solution, in which we made significant investments”, the shipowner ensured.

Out of 130 ships in its fleet, 20 were already equipped with fume scrubbers, while another 50 units were equipped with this system and “in upcoming months we will complete the operation, which required a 300 million euro investment, thus managing to install scrubbers on 101 vessels”.

The choice of scrubbers mainly depends on economic reasons: “This was a significant investment, but in a few months ships that are not equipped with these systems will have to use lower-sulphur bunker fuel, which is much more expensive than traditional fuel”.

Grimaldi already made up his mind about this: “In Rotterdam, high-sulphur bunker fuel costs 250 dollars per ton, while one ton of low-sulphur bunker fuel costs twice as much. The price difference is not justified by production costs, which are very similar. Oil majors and refineries are taking advantage of the IMO2020 regulations, and regulatory bodies should oversee and, if need be, intervene”.

Grimaldi’s managing director is persuaded that, if these measures are taken immediately, in the medium term ships currently under construction will make the difference: “Besides the 12 GG5G hybrid ro-ro units, we will receive also 5 pure car carriers, which will be able to transport 8,000 cars, with very low emissions, and we will soon place an order for two new ice-class ferries for Finnlines (Superstar class), equipped with lithium battery”. In this respect, Grimaldi did not go into much detail, but he ensured that “we have a short-list of 3 shipyards, and we have to place an order within a month”.

On the other hand, the long-term strategy “must aim at zeroing emissions, and we can do it only by using hydrogen”.

This complex issue was dealt with during the debate chaired by former ECSA Secretary General Alfons Guinier and attended by Hiroyuki Yamada (IMO marine environment department manager), Ville Haapasaari (Managing Director of the port of Helsinki), Guy Platten (ICS Secretary General), Ugo Salerno (RINA Chairman and Managing Director) and Ian Adams (Clean Shipping Alliance 2020 CEO). Using hydrogen for naval propulsion still implies serious difficulties. In fact, according to Ugo Salerno, “in order to be transported, liquid hydrogen must either be kept at very low temperatures, close to absolute 0, or at very high pressures, and doing this is very complicated indeed”.

According to Grimaldi, the solution could be ammonia – consisting of 1 nitrogen atom and 3 hydrogen atoms: “It can be transported easily, and it can be turned into hydrogen”. The problem is the waste product resulting from this process, which is highly polluting, as well as the procedures to produce ammonia, which at present are based on fossil fuels (gas) as raw material”.

“For now, this is a dream, but technology is developing very fast and we want to keep up pace with it. We still have a long way to go, but this is the path which will lead us to zero emissions”.

Francesco Bottino

TAG : Ro-ro