Canadian shipowner Algoma Central (Algoma) has signed an agreement with Wartsila for the installation of freshwater exhaust gas scrubbers on six new Equinox Class vessels.

Wartsila Ship Power’s scrubbers are designed to remove 97% of sulphur oxides emissions generated by vessel engines.

Algoma president and CEO Greg Wight said the installation of scrubber units on the company’s Equinox Class vessels fits with its stated strategic objective of improving the efficiency of its fleet while at the same time reducing our environmental footprint.

As per the deal, the scrubber systems worth $12m will be fitted to Algoma’s Equinox class vessels under construction by Nantong Mingde Heavy Industry in China. Wartsila said that Algoma will be the first customer for its new fresh water exhaust gas scrubber design, which is designed to clean the exhaust gases of the vessels’ main and auxiliary engines, as well as the oil-fired boiler.

These scrubber systems will meet strict environmental regulations coming to force in the next three years.

Wartsila’s exhaust gas scrubbers will allow ship owners to use cheaper and heavy fuel oils without converting the vessels to burn more expensive diesel oil once the regulation comes into effect. At the same time the vessel will meet the new International Maritime Organization (IMO) emission control area sulphur limits adopted by Canada and the US for the Great Lakes and coastal waters.

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The Equinox Class vessels, which include two gearless bulk carriers and four self-unloading bulk carriers, are designed for service in the Great Lakes service. According to the company the vessels are designed with high efficiency hulls that will require less horsepower and reach higher speeds, resulting in less fuel consumption and emissions per ton / kilometre of cargo carried.

The first Equinox Class vessel is scheduled to arrive in Canada in the first half of 2013.

Algoma senior vice president of technical Al Vanagas said in addition to the environmental initiatives, another key focus for the company’s fleet renewal process has been to reduce maintenance costs.

“Wärtsilä’s capability in providing both an integrated marine solution and global service support was a major reason Wärtsilä was selected to provide this comprehensive equipment package,” Vanagas said.

The company said the scrubbers recirculate fresh water in a closed loop to neutralize sulphur oxides with caustic soda, while other contaminants are captured from small amounts of water by an onboard water treatment unit.