Shipping companies would be facing delays in delivering ships equipped with IMO 2020-compliant exhaust gas filtration equipment in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak in China.

An executive from Mitsui OSK Lines told Reuters that although several ships were berthed in Chinese ports for the installation of purifiers, four provinces asked the companies in charge of these tasks to extend the Lunar New Year holiday until 10 February, so the workers will not be available to complete the tasks.

“There is concern that the workers will not return so soon to the Chinese repair yards, where many ships are waiting for the purifiers to be installed,” Takashi Maruyama, chief financial officer of Mitsui OSK, said at a press conference, making it clear that those ships do not include Mitsui OSK ships.

Maruyama added that “this may eventually reduce the number of vessels available and may lead to a tighter shipping market.

The Mitsui OSK executive said shipping companies were prohibited from making crew changes in Chinese ports, including Dalian and Qingdao.

Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha executive officer Yu Kurimoto said people were not allowed to enter or leave some areas where there are many repair docks in China.

The coronavirus outbreak comes amid efforts by maritime companies to comply with the IMO 2020 standard that came into force on January 1, which bans the use of fuels containing more than 0.5% sulfur unless they have sulfur separation devices, known as scrubbers.

China is one of the world’s largest centres for the construction, maintenance and reconditioning of ships for these purposes.