The International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) emissions regulations scheduled to take effect in 2021 could force diesel-powered yacht producers to stop building their larger vessels, which could mean a loss of jobs without a delay in implementation, according to the leadership team at Viking Yachts.

IMO believes recreational yachts with a load line length of 24m (78ft) should comply with the same emissions compliance as commercial vessels like tug boats and passenger ferries by requiring large, heavy, heat-generating Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) systems. Further, the Viking team says, an extension in the compliance timeline was rejected by IMO – led by the EU and Canada – based on the belief that yacht owners can afford the additional costs of SCR.

“Until a proven, safe and commercially appropriate or alternative solution is available for recreational pleasure yachts, these requirements need to be postponed,” Viking special projects director Robert Sherriff communicated in a company e-mail.

The regulations could add as much as 30% to the cost of an engine and as much as a half-million US dollars to the total cost of a boat. The measure also requires urea for treating the exhaust emissions, which poses additional problems of on-board storage as well as availability.

While the US has an exemption under the treaty that imposes the regulations, the exemption is only good in US waters, meaning sport anglers and yachters travelling, for example, from South Florida to the Bahamas would require SCR.

“Everybody wants clean oceans and clean air,” Bob Healey Jr of Viking told IBI, adding that for commercial vessels that operate under full engine load most of the time the requirements are needed.

“But when it comes to recreational vessels, these systems only operate effectively at 80% engine load, and our boats very rarely go to 80% load and never for a very long time.” Yet, Healey Jr said, the system runs continuously, generating high temperatures in an engine room as using the limited urea treatment on board.

Healey Jr adds that for the biggest yachts, with capacity in the engine room, fitting an SCR isn’t as large an issue as it is in vessels under 150ft.

Removing all of the safety and cost concerns of yacht builders, Healey Jr said, most engine builders are saying they will not have a SCR system tested and perfect before 2022 at the earliest.

Without a delay, Healey Jr said Viking would have to stop building its 92 Convertible and 93 Motor Yacht, which means jobs.

“If we shut those two models down, we would immediately furlough 200 people,” he said. “The only way we can expand our business is to go smaller – which we’ve done – or larger. We have an over 100-footer on the drawing board that would mean an additional 50 or 100 jobs. So, from a jobs issue, it’s impactful, but it also means we have a ceiling that we will never be able to get above.”