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No steaming

No steaming
The news that an MR product carrier drifted 280 miles to save fuel tells us all there is to know about the current fuel market. The Norden Nord Integrity managed to save 27 tonnes of fuel while drifting towards its destination after the captain stopped the main engine with agreement from his operations department.

Soon, no doubt, we will be having a revival of the idea of putting sails on merchant vessels which had a vogue in the 1970's as bunker prices rocketed. It didn't come to much though much ingenuity was deployed.

The average price of bunker fuel this year has averaged around $635 per metric tonne according to London broker EA Gibson. January 1 2015 will see a new set of IMO requirements that will see bunker fuel sulphur levels in Emission Control Areas capped at 0.1%. This will mean most ships will use marine gas oil while operating in ECAs, which currently stands at a premium of 40% to bunker fuel in Rotterdam.

After that, there is proposed IMO legislation shifting all bunkers to less than 0.5% sulphur from 2020. Quite where that low sulphur oil is going to come from is entirely unclear. Lack of investment in the European refinery industry suggests that it is highly unlikely that sufficient low sulphur fuel will be available. Of course there are alternatives like LNG and scrubbing technology but these are hardly likely to be deployed on a sufficient scale.

It is ironic that as shipping reduces its sulphur fuel content to allay fears of coastal pollution effects in terms of chest and other conditions, that bio-engineers are proposing to throw sulphur into the atmosphere because its aerosol-creating properties slow down global warming.