The sulphur directive – here to stay!

The Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) unanimously adopted the revised Annex VI to MARPOL 73/78 (International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships) on 10 October 2008, which places restrictions on nitrogen and sulphur oxides emissions from ship traffic. Emissions of particulate matter from shipping should be reduced by lowering the sulphur content in fuels. The new Annex entered into force on 1 July 2010. The sulphur content of fuel will be reduced in specific areas (SECA = Sulphur Emission Control Area), namely the Baltic Sea, the North Sea and the English Channel, from 1.5% to 1% from 1 July 2010, and to 0.1% from 1 January 2015. The SECA areas in Europe are global pioneers, as worldwide the highest permitted sulphur content of fuel will fall, as from 1 January 2012, from 4.5% to 3.5%, and to 0.5% from 1 January 2020.

Different technical solutions have been identified in order to meet the new restrictions. Alternatives to heavy fuel oil (HFO) include marine gas oil (MGO), marine diesel oil (MDO), liquefied natural gas (LNG) or methanol. Another alternative is to use scrubbers and continue to use HFO.

SSPA Sweden AB is coordinating two pilot projects funded by the Trans-European Transport Network Executive Agency (TEN-T EA) called Pilot LNG and Pilot Scrubber. The latter focuses on installing innovative and lightweight scrubbers on ro-ro ships, while the Pilot LNG is focusing more on LNG infrastructure and is therefore broader, including the building of an LNG terminal, the building of new ships for the distribution of LNG, as well as new ships and the conversion of existing ships using LNG as fuel.

Pilot projects – guidance for followers

It is of course a challenge for all shipowners operating in the SECA areas to reduce sulphur emission to just 0.1% from 1 January this year. In the two pilot projects, the objectives are not only to find new ways forward, but also to act as guidance to those that follow. Besides the funding support from TEN-T EA, the platform Zero Vision Tool ( is also significant support in this work.

Zero Vision Tool is a collaboration method and project platform developed by the Swedish Shipowners’ Association and SSPA for a safer, more environmentally and energy efficient transport by sea. Within the platform, representatives of industry, the academic world, agencies and administrations meet to share experiences and find common, workable and sustainable solutions.

Closed-loop scrubber preferred

Of the different activities in the two pilots mentioned, the installation of an Ecospec scrubber on the TransAtlantics ro-ro TransTimber is the first ship-oriented one to be operational. The TransTimber sails on the Gulf of Bothnia, the northernmost arm of the Baltic Sea. In other words: icy conditions. Therefore, the scrubber process required a minimum of top-up water - the storage of cooling water is not an alternative and no water could be discharged into the sea, which meant that a closed-loop system was mandatory. A conventional scrubber is much heavier and reduces the cargo capacity to an unacceptable level.

LNG instead of HFO

The first activity in the Pilot LNG is the Skangass LNG terminal at Brofjorden, Lysekil, which had its Grand Opening in the autumn of 2014. The tank has a volume of 30 000 m3 and will deliver LNG to the ships within the Pilot LNG and of course to the overall LNG market.

The second activity is the building of an LNG bunker tanker by Sirius Rederi AB called the Flexi tanker. The bunker vessel will operate mainly in the Gothenburg/Skaw area. The ship will have a cargo volume of 5 800 m3 and a dual-fuel engine, and will represent an essential part of the infrastructure chain.

A second new building in planning is a cement carrier to be built by Erik Thun AB, also with a dual-fuel engine and a cylindrical LNG tank in the forecastle. The ship is especially designed to be used on rivers and lakes, e.g. Lake Mälaren in Sweden. Donsötank Rederi AB has plans for a feeder vessel with new innovative A-tanks that are highly insulated. Finally, Furetank Rederi AB is converting the engine of an existing product tanker to be fuelled by LNG. Detailed presentations of all the activities can be found at

The decision platform

So, even if the sulphur directive has caused many ship owners additional costs on the already tough shipping market, it seems that there is a way forward.

A third alternative on the Zero Vision Tool platform is the converted ropax ferry Stena Germanica, which operates from Gothenburg and which now uses methanol as fuel.

Involved actors like ship owners, ports and others in order to prepare for a sustainable business in the SECA world now can rely on a commonly developed platform of wide knowledge, experience and lessons learnt gained from and exchanged in the Zero Vision Tool work during the last years. This is a unique cooperation that engages more than 130 organisations from different countries.

Photos and illustrations

Illustration: The Flexi tanker will mainly operate in the Gothenburg/Skaw area. Candidate for Nor-Shipping Next Generation Ship Award 2015.

Installation of Ecospec scrubber on TransAtlantic’s TransTimber.

The hub of the Pilot LNG, the Skangass terminal in Brofjorden, Lysekil.

Cement carrier to be built by Erik Thun AB.


Take a look at the video clip "Flexi 2015 – a part of Pilot LNG" (by Zero Vision Tool)

JIP Flexi is participating in the establishment of an LNG infrastructure via Pilot LNG by building a vessel with a fast, efficient and safe bunkering system for LNG bunkering in- and offshore, as well as developing efficient procedures for LNG bunkering.