Scrubber for environmental protection -Why our opinion differs

In this interview the management of the shipping company MC-Schiffahrt talks about the most important questions revolving around the topic “Scrubber” and the steps taken regarding this issue.


Question: Emissions and environmental pollution are an important issue for the shipping industry and therefore also for your shipping company. What do you do against the emissions of your ships?

Answer: We are constantly optimizing the fuel consumption of our ships. Our container ships use 30 % less fuel than comparative vessels, only due to the design. Furthermore, we use additives in our fuel to optimize the combustion process of the engines. We always try to maintain an optimal speed to keep the consumption as low as possible.
The rate of consumption is continuously monitored and if any deviations occur, it can be rectified immediately.


Question: What is a “Scrubber”`? Is its usage the best development against emissions?

Answer: A “Scrubber” is a system that is designed to, by the use of water wash, remove sulfur dioxide from the exhaust gases.
From 1.January 2020 all ships must use fuel, that contains a maximum sulfur content of 0.5 %, according to regulations of  the IMO (International Maritime Organization) (currently 3,5 %), or the sulfur oxides must be removed from the fumes.
However Scrubber only remove sulfur oxides, but not other pollutants like carbon dioxide or nitrogen oxide. Therefore the “Scrubber” is only partly a solution, the way it is build today.


Question: Are your ships build with a “Scrubber”?

Answer: No, our ships do not have a “Scrubber” and we are not currently looking into upgrading our machines. We are not convinced of this technology and it is not clear how the disposal of the incurred waste can be implemented. Scrubbers that run with sea water dispose of their “recycled” waste into the sea. This removal into their waters is already forbidden by some states.
We find it questionable to shift the pollution from the air into the water or if it is a closed system, to dispose of the waste somewhere ashore.
We believe it is more sensible to produce a universal fuel that fulfills all future requirements. In this respect we already support the usage of the sulfur reduced but costly fuel, in order to avoid the very costly and time-consuming installation of the controversial Scrubber.


Question: Is the Scrubber more less build to create a short-term gratification?

Answer: In our opinion this is true as the usage of Scrubbers has not been thought through properly. There need to be an alternative that reduces the overall emissions. We are convinced the most shipping companies will follow our idea that the usage of the more expensive sulfur reduced fuel will lead to the reduction of the emissions in a short time and thus the demand for this fuel will be rising. Thereby the already mentioned costs and time-consuming installation of the Scrubbers is not necessary, as the supply of the sulfur reduced fuel will rise and the price will fall accordingly.


Question: Why is the road and air traffic less harmful than the container shipping?

Answer: Diesel or heavy oils were always used as fuel in the shipping industry. Catalytic converters and/or soot particle filters are difficult to install and in case of an installation very expensive.
The consumer mentality that all goods should be available on short notice and cheap has a crucial influence on shipping rates. The installation of an exhaust gas treatment system, also the aforementioned Scrubber is very costly and time consuming for the shipping companies. The incurred downtime must be compensated through higher freight rates, also the cost of the Scrubber.
In the end the consumer has to pay the price for the higher shipping prices.
The mentioned “tight is right” mentality does not agree with environmental requirements.
Despite these ships are still the most environmentally friendly mode of transport. Emission and fuel consumption are still very low in relation to the amount of goods transported. No other method of transport can move such a great amount of cargo in a short time over great distances like a ship.


Question: Does the topic “pollutants” become more popular?

Answer: The topic “pollutant emissions” is often being misrepresented by the media. Some recently published reports have pointed out that for example the often decried CO2 emissions that lead only in Germany to a Diesel driving ban, have been presented in a wrong way. Incorrect measurements are leading to manipulated results and misinform the consumer.
The German environmental aid is using methods that destroy the automotive industry and is seemingly following an own agenda and is obviously not interested in reporting objectively. The much lauded e-mobility is also misrepresented. The consumer is not properly informed because when we look closely, e-mobility is anything but environmentally friendly.