By Jim Shaw 

The Move to LNG: Gaining Momentum for All Ship Types


Finland's Containerships Ltd Oy expects to be operating the first of six 1,400-TEU Chinese-built LNG-powered container ships in Northern Europe later this year. Photo courtesy of Containerships Ltd.

The use of LNG as a marine fuel has grown rapidly over the past decade and shows no sign of slackening, with a large number of vessel types now either built to operate on LNG, under construction or in the design stage. Several of these are LNG bunkering tankers as use of the fuel begins to build in volume.

The world's first LNG bunkering vessel was a modified water tanker, built for operation in the Baltic, but a number of purpose-built tankers are now under construction, including several in North America.

In Europe, French LNG containment system specialist GTT has developed a design for a 4,000-cubic meter capacity LNG bunkering vessel that would use tanks with the GTT Mark III Flex Cargo Containment system to deliver LNG. This system can operate up to a pressure of 2 bar, and by combining GTT's membrane containment system with the ability to store LNG at that pressure, the tanker would have a higher capacity and increased operational flexibility over conventional designs.

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Under GTT's system, Boil Off Gas (BOG) management during loading and bunkering operations would be more flexible because of the wide vapor pressure operating range. Vapor could be buffered and condensed in the tanks to help the fueled ship or feeding facility handle the vapor, which would increase loading and delivery flow rates.

GTT's LNG technology is already being used in a 2,200-cubic meter capacity LNG bunkering barge being built by Conrad Industries for WesPac Midstream as well as in several 4,000-cubic meter capacity bunkering tankers under construction in Russia for St. Petersburg-based LNG-Gorskaya.

Shell's Ship

Shell Shipping & Maritime, which manages 44 LNG carriers, or around 11 percent of the world's LNG fleet, has chosen a larger 6,500-cubic meter capacity LNG bunkering tanker for its operations at the Port of Rotterdam, where the South Korean-built vessel will be stationed by the middle of next year. Under construction by STX Offshore & Shipbuilding, the new tanker will be able to load from large or small terminals and will be able to bunker a wide variety of vessels in Northwest Europe.

Initially, it will load from a new LNG facility being developed by a joint venture of Gasunie, Vopak and OMV at Rotterdam's Gas Access to Europe terminal, and its first customer will be Finland's Containerships Ltd. Oy, which signed a supply contract in November.

The Shell ship will follow a smaller 5,800-cubic meter capacity LNG bunkering tanker already under construction at Holland's Royal Bodewes Shipyard for Dutch shipowner Anthony Veder that will enter service at the start of next year, as well as a 5,000-cubic meter capacity vessel being built in South Korea by Hanjin Heavy Industries for stationing at Zeebrugge, Belgium. The latter vessel, to be owned by a consortium made up of NYK and Mitsubishi of Japan and France's GDF-Suez, will draw fuel from the Fluxys LNG Terminal at Zeebrugge and will supply it to ships operated by United European Car Carriers.

LNG Box Ships

Although Seattle's Tote Maritime surprised the international shipping community last year by getting the world's first LNG-powered container ship into service (see pacific maritime magazine, Oct. 2015), other LNG-powered box ships are now under construction or being converted. German shipowner Wessels Reederei is having one of its feeder ships, the 10,585-gt Wes Amelia, modified to run on gas and may convert 16 sister ships, while Croatia's Brodosplit Shipyard has started construction of four 2,000-TEU vessels for Brodosplit Navigation Ltd., all of which will run on LNG.

Finland's Containerships Ltd. expects to be operating at least two of its Chinese-built LNG-powered feeder ships before the end of this year, with four more to follow.

All of these 1,400-TEU vessels will feature 7-cylinder Wärtsilä RT-flex50DF dual-fuel 2-stroke main engines, which means that they will be the first box ships to use Wärtsilä's new 2-stroke, low pressure, dual-fuel technology. Their LNG storage tanks will be located between cargo holds below deck and the ships will need only one bunkering call, Rotterdam, to carry out their normal trading rotation in Northern Europe and the Baltic. Once completed they will be chartered to Containerships by their German owner, GNS Shipping, while technical management will be entrusted to Nordick Hamburg, also of Germany.

Feeder Designs

In Finland, both Deltamarin and Wärtsilä have come up with new designs for LNG-powered container feeder ships that will offer higher TEU and fuel storage capacities than the GNS Shipping vessels. Deltamarin has been working with China's AVIC Weihai Shipyard, which is associated with Deltamarin though its current Chinese ownership, to come up with a design that is economical in operation and "production-friendly" for shipyards.

Using three series of model tests carried out at the Hamburg Ship Model Basin, the Deltamarin A.Delta2300 hull form has been optimized to ensure low resistance combined with high propulsion efficiency. This has resulted in an expected fuel burn rate of 42 tons per day at 19-knots at design draft using traditional fuel, with the ship capable of being configured for LNG burning.

The proposed 619-foot (188.6m) by 101-foot (30.9m) feeder hull offers a container capacity of 2,322 TEU (1,700 TEU at 14 tons per loaded TEU), 500 of which could be refrigerated. The boxes would be stowed in five cargo holds and on deck.

Compatriot designer Wärtsilä has introduced a larger 3,800-TEU capacity vessel that would be powered by a 24,400-horsepower W6X72DF dual fuel engine drawing LNG from three tanks of a combined 1,950 cubic meter capacity set in the lower aft section of the hull (see Pacific Maritime Magazine, Sept. 2015).

LNG-Fueled Ferries

Both Finnish companies have also come up with designs for LNG-powered ferries, with several large LNG-fueled ferries already operating in Europe. Deltamarin's "DeltaLinx" design is for a smaller 263-foot ( 80.4m) by 59-foot (18m) vessel that would serve short-sea and coastal routes. The 800-passenger design uses existing technologies but integrates them into the smallest possible package to enable the ferry to operate into small ports and through congested harbors.

A service speed of 15 knots would be provided by a 6,000-kW dual-fuel or all-gas powerplant with exhaust casings mounted at the sides and a large LNG storage tank situated below the car deck. Reduced resistance and low wash characteristics would be ensured through highly streamlined hull lines while the incorporation of high-lift rudders and a bow thruster would aid inport maneuvering.

Multipurpose passenger facilities, to allow for seasonal service adjustments, would be arranged on two decks and would include a restaurant, pub, children's area and small spa while outside seating would be available on the stern decks. For vehicles, either 82 cars or 16 trucks – or a mixture of both – a bow and stern ramp arrangement would be installed for quick drive-through loading and unloading.

Spanish LNG Experiment

In southern Europe, Spanish energy company Gas Natural Fenosa has entered into a collaboration agreement with Rolls-Royce to develop and install a pure-gas Bergen C26:33 L6 AG auxiliary engine aboard the 29,670g-t ro/pax ferry Abel Matutes in an experimental move which is expected to lead to greater use of LNG in the Mediterranean.

The agreement gives Rolls-Royce its first reference for a pure-gas engine installation on a European-flagged ferry operating outside of Norwegian waters and is expected to dramatically reduce the ferry's emissions during port stays in Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca.

In a related move, the ferry's operator, Baleària, has reached an agreement with Spanish shipbuilder Construcciones Navales del Norte – La Naval for the construction of two LNG-fueled newbuildings, with delivery of the first vessel expected by 2018. To cost approximately €350 million to build, the twin 225-meter by 30.4-meter vessels will be the first in Spain to operate on LNG and among the largest gas-powered ferries operating in Europe. Baleària has also signed a contract with Rolls-Royce for the design of an LNG propulsion system that could be retro-fitted to three of its diesel-powered high-speed ferries.

North American Ferries

In Canada, Société des Traversiers du Québec has taken delivery of the 436-foot (133m) by 72-foot (22m) F.A. Gauthier from Fincantieri's Castellammare di Stabia yard at Naples as the first LNG-powered ferry to be built in Italy, and the first to be operated in North America. Later this year it will take delivery of the smaller 301-foot (92m) Armand-Imbeau II from the Chantier Davie yard at Lévis, Québec as the first gas-powered ferry to be built in North America. A sister ship, Jos-Deschênes II, will follow, with each of the ice-class vessels capable of transporting up to 110 vehicles on two decks, including tractor-trailers.

In Poland, the Remontowa Shipbuilding yard at Gdansk has floated out the first of three larger 351-foot (107m) LNG-powered ferries it is building for British Columbia's BC Ferries, with the lead vessel, Salish Orca, scheduled to join the fleet this August. It will replace the 50-year-old Queen of Burnaby on the Comox – Powell River route while the second LNG ferry, Salish Eagle, will follow in October to replace the 51-year-old Queen of Nanaimo in Tsawwassen-Southern Gulf Islands service. Next year the third LNG ferry, Salish Raven, will begin operating in the Southern Gulf Islands and will also act as a relief vessel for the two earlier ships.

BC Ferries is also planning to have two of its 1993-1994 built Spirit class vessels modified so they can burn LNG but the target date for this project has been pushed ahead one year to ensure sufficient engineering and equipment procurement lead times.

LNG-Powered Product Tankers

While the latest product tankers to be built in North America have all been designed for possible LNG use in the future (see Pacific Maritime Magazine, Dec. 2015), Sweden's Gothia Tanker Alliance is having four 16,300-dwt product tankers built in China that will all be fitted with LNG propulsion systems from the start. The 492-foot (149.9m) by 75-foot (22.8m) vessels are to be owned by Alliance members Furetank, Älvtank and Thun Tankers, and will be delivered by China's Avic Dingheng Shipbuilding in late 2018 and early 2019. The order follows Furetank's earlier decision to have its 17,557-dwt tanker Fure West refitted to burn LNG by having its MaK M 43 C diesel rebuilt in-hull to a 7-cylinder M 46 dual fuel engine.

Caterpillar Marine, which supplies Mak engines, is supplying the complete gas system for the retrofit, which will including bunker stations, vaporizer and two 255-cubic-meter capacity LNG storage tanks. The project will be the second dual fuel retrofit carried out on an MaK engine and follows a similar undertaking last year involving Anthony Veder's 6,554-dwt LNG carrier Coral Anthelia. Furetank, which will own two of the new tankers in the Gothia Tanker Alliance pool will manage all four of the newbuilds, as well as the Fure West, through its Furetank Chartering subsidiary.


Although the traditional long-distance trade routes of Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs) would seem to rule out LNG usage for these types of ships. China's Dalian Shipbuilding Industry Company (DSIC) has recently gained an Approval in Principle (AiP) certificate from classification society DNV GL for a large crude carrier that would have enough Type C fuel tank capacity mounted on its open decks to allow a round trip from the Middle East to the US without refueling. The deck location would also give the tanker the same cargo capacity as a conventional ship of the same size and would minimize the impact on the vessel's overall cargo tank and piping layout. The design, which DSIC says will meet IMO NOx Tier III requirements while operating in gas fuel mode, has been found to comply with the Gas Fueled notation as given in the DNV GL rules for the classification of ships and the recently adopted IGF Code. Some aspects of the new Chinese design incorporate several features drawn from DNV GL's earlier "Triality" concept for a large crude carrier that was introduced in 2010.

LNG Bulk Carriers

In the dry bulk trades the world's first LNG-powered bulker, the 7,200-dwt cement carrier Greenland, has been launched by Dutch builder Ferus Smit for delivery to a joint venture composed of Sweden's Erik Thun AB and Norway's KG Jebsen Cement (see pacific maritime magazine, Dec. 2015). It is now to be followed by two larger LNG-fueled handysize bulkers to be built by China's Qingshan Shipyard for Finland's ESL Shipping Ltd. Scheduled for delivery in 2018, the twin ships will be based on Deltamarin's B.Delta26LNG design, which incorporates both dual-fuel main and auxiliary machinery, and will make use of a type C LNG storage tank of approximately 400 cubic meter capacity mounted behind the superstructure.

The 525-foot (160m) by 85-foot (26m), 25,600-dwt vessels will be ice classed and will have a relatively shallow maximum draft of 32.8 feet for trading conditions in the Baltic Sea.

A design for an even larger 98,000-dwt bulk carrier has been granted Approval in Principle (AIP) by Japan's international classification society ClassNK following its development by Maritime Innovation Japan Corporation (MIJAK) of Tokyo. This vessel would be fueled by LNG, with both the main engine and main generator engines to be dual fuel types, while a 2,000 cubic meter capacity IMO Type B tank would be used for LNG storage.

LNG Multi-Purpose Vessel

Following on the heels of LNG development in the Container and con/ro sectors, which includes Matson's new container ships now under construction in Philadelphia and Crowley's con/ros at Pascagoula, China's Nantong COSCO KHI Ship Engineering Co. (NACKS) and Lloyd's Register (LR) have joined forces to develop a new 28,000-dwt dual-fuel multi-purpose vessel design.

This ship would have its bridge and accommodation block set right forward with three deck cranes, two of 350-ton capacity and one of 100-ton capacity, mounted aft on the port side. Propulsion would be provided by a MAN ME-GI main engine utilizing a high-pressure gas fuel system while the ship's main electrical generator and boiler would be on a low-pressure gas fuel system. LNG would be provided by a 500 cubic meter capacity Type 'C' LNG fuel tank located aft on the deck over the engine room.

The Chinese design complies with LR's Gas Fuelled Ship Rules and also has gone through LR's ShipRight ARBD (Assessment of Risk Based Design) procedure. In addition, the dual-fuel system design and arrangement have achieved LR's approval in principle and Gas Ready Class descriptive note – GR(A). It is expected that China's Cosco Shipping, which has been building up a substantial fleet of multi-purpose vessels, including two units of 36,000-dwt to be delivered by the NACKS yard this year, will be the first customer for the new gas burners.

French LNG containment system specialist GTT has developed a 4,000-cubic meter LNG bunkering vessel that would make use of its proprietary GTT Mark III Flex Cargo Containment system. Photo courtesy of GTT.


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