Have you heard about another round of emissions regulations coming in January of 2020 called IMO 2020?
If you haven’t, it’s understandable. IMO stands for International Maritime Organization — it’s the international group that sets policies and regulations for large, ocean-going vessels like container ships and cruise ships. Beginning next year, this organization will start to implement a round of emissions reduction regulations that sound all too familiar to trucking executives.
That’s was the word from David Schaller, the industry engagement director for the North American Council for Freight Efficiency, speaking at HDT’s Heavy Duty Trucking Exchange event in Scottsdale, Arizona, on May 9.
NACFE is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping North American fleet executives assess and deploy emerging technologies that can both help reduce the consumption of petroleum-based fuels while boosting the bottom lines for carriers.
Schaller opened his remarks by noting that recently, with fuel prices either low or hovering in a manageable price range over the past few years, fleet fuel efficiency — while important — hasn’t been the priority for some fleets that it was during the fuel price spike that drove many carriers out of business in 2007 and 2008. “And while at NACFE we always feel fuel economy is important, there’s good reason to think that it may become a priority for fleets again beginning next year.”
That’s because, Schaller told HDTX attendees, that beginning next year, the owners of large, ocean-going vessels will have to begin adopting either new technology, or new using new fuels, in order to meet the strict new emissions mandates imposed on the maritime industry.
“But unlike the trucking industry,” Schaller noted, “maritime fleets are being given a series of choices on how they can choose to meet those new standards. The first choice is to switch over to liquefied natural gas as a fuel for the vessel. The second is to install emissions scrubbers ... on the exhaust systems of these ships. And the third is to begin burning ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel in a vessel — the same exact fuel that powers the trucks in your fleet. And the fuel tanks on those ships hold an awful lot more fuel than the ones on your trucks do.”
Currently, most marine vessels burn a much dirtier, and cheaper, low-grade diesel fuel, which emits a much higher level of pollutants into the atmosphere than ultra-low sulfur diesel.
Obviously, Schaller said, given the laws of supply and demand, it’s logical to assume that as these new, high-volume users of ULSD begin to purchase large quantities of the fuel, prices will rise accordingly with the increased demand.
Schaller said that while it’s too soon to pin any exact figures on how large an affect the maritime industry will make on low-sulphur fuel prices, he did note that current estimates suggest that only around 10% of vessels were likely to switch to liquefied natural gas burning engines, with another 10% likely to install million-dollar emission scrubbers to exhaust systems. “In all, he said, “it seems like that approximately 75% to 80% of these vessels will simply opt to burn low-sulfur diesel in order to meet these new regulations.”
Luckily, Schaller said, the trucking industry has made tremendous strides in boosting tractor-trailer fuel efficiency since the dark days of sky-high fuel prices a decade ago, and added that promising new technologies are emerging — and being evaluated by NACFE — all the time.
“As an industry, we are much better poised to deal with rising fuel prices than ever before,” Schaller said. “And at NACFE, we always welcome partnerships with any company or organization will to help us evaluate and validate new fuel saving technologies or procedures as they come available.”