The higher cost of lower-sulfur fuel, which ships will have to burn starting next year when operating in the Emission Control Areas (ECA) around North America and North Europe
, could cost shippers an additional $50-$150 per 40-foot container, according to an estimate from Maersk Line.
Starting Jan. 1, the maximum-allowed content of sulfur in fuel in ECAs — 200 nautical miles from the American and Canadian shores, and in the Baltic Sea, North Sea and English Channel — will drop to 0.1-percent sulfur from today's 1 percent.
Maersk said it supports the lower limits, noting they will have "significant positive effects on the environmental and health," but also called for "strict regulatory enforcement to safeguard the environmental benefits and ensure a level playing field for ship operators."
The carrier continued, "Fuel with a sulfur content of 0.1 percent is significantly more expensive than fuel with 1-percent sulphur content. By 2015, Maersk Line expects to purchase 650,000 tonnes of fuel with 0.1-percent sulphur content annually for our fleet, equal to 7 percent of all fuel purchased."
Based on the current price difference of $300 per ton, approximately 50-percent higher than the other fuel, Maersk projects its costs will rise $250 million per year. It also said it will face increase costs when buying services from third-party operators of feeder ships.
Maersk said it will offset the additional cost by incorporating higher average fuel costs into its existing standard bunker surcharge.
It noted the additional cost to customers will depend on the length of time a ship is traveling in an ECA, and whether a ship is touching ECA areas at both origin and destination, as on a transatlantic crossing. The carrier also said reefer containers will incur higher cost due to fuel used to generate power on board vessels.
Hapag-Lloyd also said the new low sulphur fuel regulations will result in extensive increases in bunker costs, and it estimated that low-sulphur fuel prices are expected to be between 50 percent and 100 percent above current bunker fuel costs.
Eleven ocean carriers have launched the Trident Alliance
as a vehicle to encourage regulatory authorities to vigorously enforce international standards on sulfur emissions from commercial vessels.