Further to the lively debate on ship owners’ options after 2020, I note that four big Japanese corporations have announced that they will co-operate on LNG bunkering.

K Line and NYK Line will work with Chubu Electric Power and Toyota Tsusho Corporation to build LNG bunkering infrastructure in Japan. The four have released a joint statement which says that “LNG is expected to become an important alternative to heavy fuel oil due to its relatively low carbon footprint, which will enable ships to meet increasingly stringent international regulations on emissions.” The group is looking to commercialize a new business to supply LNG as a marine fuel to ships in the country’s Chubu region.

Clearly the priority for this co-operation will be the liner business. NYK, K Line and MOL will merge their liner functions this year to compete better with the big European lines Maersk, MSC and CMA-CGM. In the US, TOTE already has LNG powered container ships, while ferry services New York, the Great Lakes and west coast are all moving into LNG bunkering, as are ferry services in Europe.

Elsewhere in Asia, South Korea has announced revisions to marine fuels regulations to allow LNG bunkering to take place in ports. Ports in Thailand, India (Ghazipur inland terminal) and China (mostly on inland waterways) are proposing LNG bunkering studies, with some, such as Laem Chabang in Thailand, moving onto feasibility studies.

In Europe, the Port of Amsterdam has just issued a joint statement with Titan LNG announcing a long-term contract for Titan’s LNG bunkering pontoon FlexFueler001 (pictured above) to be located in Amsterdam, providing an alternative to LNG bunkering developments in Rotterdam (on stream in 2020) and Zeebrugge. The pontoon will be positioned later this year. It can be filled with LNG from ships or trucks, thereby being independent of supply from shore-based terminals. The pontoon’s name implies to me that Titan LNG plans to build more, and indeed Titan LNG has confirmed that ambition to me.

Also in Europe, the port of Venice has said that it will add an LNG bunker barge to its planned LNG terminal, while there has been a rash of announcements from ports in Sweden (Gotland), Poland (Swinoujscie) Spain (Barcelona-Valencia-Algeciras), Italy (Venice, Naples, Sicily) and Malta.

Once the LNG bunkering infrastructure is in place, developing it for use by ships other than the containerships, ferries, barges or other project-specific vessels should be eminently possible.

Ship owners are already acting. Last Wednesday AET took delivery of two new Aframaxes, Eagle Barcelona and Eagle Brisbane. AET also took delivery of two Suezmaxes last Friday, Eagle San Francisco and Eagle San Jose. All four are said to be fully compliant with forthcoming regulations, including, says AET, “ballast water management, sulphur emission control and the requirement for carbon monitoring, reporting and verification. Each will qualify for the Green Passport notation and benefit from optimised hull design and the inclusion of modern, energy efficient engines and machinery. The optimum propeller design and innovation as well as the use of high specification hull coatings will help reduce fuel consumption further.”

Having covered the scrubber angle, AET will take delivery later this year of two LNG dual-fuelled Aframax sized dynamic positioning shuttle tankers and says that the dual-fuel ships are the “sustainable solution both in the mid and long term.”

AET is not alone. Teekay Offshore Partners has options for two LNG capable DP2 shuttle tankers, while SCF has ordered six Aframaxes with LNG power capability.

Even bulkers are looking at LNG now, with Polaris Shipping reportedly having ten LNG-ready Very Large Ore Carriers on order. These ships have basically one trade route (Brazil-Asia) so there is relatively low risk to finding LNG bunkering – it comes as part of the project.

Up to now, the LNG bunkering discussion has been trapped in the Chicken-Egg problem: which comes first? As philosophy students can tell you, the Chicken-Egg problem is a logical fallacy. The two evolve together. The evolution of LNG bunkering seems to be gathering pace as owners and suppliers work together to ensure that demand and supply grow together.

To me, this lends support to the thesis that scrubbers are a staging post on the way to the elimination of heavy marine fuel oils altogether.

Source: Hellenic Shipping News.