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Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment
Abstract A wide array of technical and operational solutions is available to shipowners in order to comply with existing and upcoming environmental regulation within Emission Control Areas (ECAs). Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) is a promising alternative since it offers potential cost savings in addition to ensuring compliance with ECA regulation. But investment to retrofit existing vessels to be able to use LNG carries significant upfront costs, and a high degree of uncertainty remains on the differential between the prices of LNG and conventional maritime fuels, as well as on the availability of LNG and the reliability of its supply chain. New technologies such as LNG inherently carry substantial risk and an ill-chosen investment strategy may have irreversible consequences that could jeopardise the future of the shipping company. One important question is whether interested owners should invest in LNG now to comply with ECA rules in 2015 and reap the benefits of lower LNG prices, or whether it would be advisable to wait until some of the uncertainty is resolved. While traditional discounted cash flow techniques are unable to account for the value of managerial flexibility linked, for example, to the possibility of deferring an investment, real option analysis can be used to analyse such cases. The paper discusses the optimal time for investment in LNG retrofit and takes specific account of the value of an investment deferral strategy versus the advantages obtainable from the immediate exploitation of fuel price differentials. Through the use of a real option model the paper shows that there is a trade-off between low fuel prices and capital expenses for investment in LNG retrofit. The development in LNG is critically dependent on its future price as well as the reduction in capital costs and ship retrofitting costs. In this respect, policy makers can play a critical role in providing support to advance technical knowledge, maintain LNG prices at favourable levels and in avoiding ambiguity on regulation.