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Cruise industry passes LNG ‘tipping point’

Fri 23 Mar 2018 by Rebecca Moore

Cruise industry passes LNG ‘tipping point’
Tom Strang (Carnival Corp): Training in LNG is a huge challenge and huge opportunity

2018 is a landmark year for the use of LNG by the cruise industry, although there are still challenges to be overcome 

The cruise ship industry has now passed the tipping point for LNG, speakers at Seatrade Cruise Global’s Alternative Fuels panel agreed.

The session revealed that there are 18 LNG-powered cruise ships currently under construction, out of 94 ships on the global cruise ship orderbook. This represents a quarter of newbuild cruise ship capacity so will have a significant impact. Carnival Corp is taking the lead with the use of LNG as fuel – it will launch seven fully LNG-powered ships by 2022 – a move that will cause ripple effects throughout the industry. And 2018 is a key year – it will see Carnival’s first LNG-fuelled vessel delivered.

All this means that the cruise industry has now “passed the tipping point” for LNG, GTT general manager North America, Aziz Bamak said.

Furthermore, major players in other ship sectors will help strengthen the take-up within the cruise industry: CMA CGM announced in November last year that it was going to build nine 22,000 TEU ships fuelled by LNG. Mr Bamak told delegates “When you see those kind of players that have huge LNG requirements, it is a very good sign for long-term infrastructure that will sustain growth.”

GTT is supplying the LNG tanks. Mr Bamak added “Our mission and duty is to accompany this revolution and help the cruise industry adopt technology in a safe and reliable manner. Not only in technology, safety, training and design, but also looking at developing the industry network for long-term and sustainable growth.”

CMA CGM will require 300,000 tonnes of LNG a year over the next 10 years, a huge amount of fuel that will help drive the development of the LNG bunkering infrastructure.

This is crucial, as to establish LNG as a main source of power for cruise ships, the industry needs to ensure that the infrastructure is there to support it. Speaking at the Seatrade Cruise Global panel, senior vice president of maritime affairs for Carnival Corp Tom Strang said “Making sure the fuel is where it needs to be is still a big challenge.”

He elaborated “We know the technology works – it is new for us [cruise] but is not new technology. The challenge for us is getting fuel to where it needs to be.”

Despite the number of cruise ships powered by LNG on order, there are currently only six bunkering vessels in operation. Mr Strang commented “That’s a huge challenge and Shell is helping us here.”

Carnival Corp has signed a framework agreement with Shell Western LNG (Shell) to supply fuel to power the LNG-fuelled ships for AIDA Cruises and Costa Cruises.

Shell LNG marketing and trading team lead Americas, LNG business development, John Grubic said commented “As it relates to marine fuel, we have dedicated a lot of energy to LNG. It is not just about getting it to the vessel, there is a whole regulatory regime that has had to come together to support this. We are working with partners – Carnival in particular – very closely, making it even more easy to choose the LNG pathway.”

Training challenges and opportunities 

But aside from infrastructure, there are other challenging areas. Mr Strang said one of the areas taking up the most time is LNG training. “This is a huge challenge and huge opportunity,” he said.  

As well as chief engineers and stakeholders, familiarity training by other members of crew is needed. “A huge amount of effort needs to be put in, we are working on that very hard and working together with specialists to write procedures.”

Indeed, Carnival Corp is developing LNG-related safety training at its state-of-the-art training facility – the Center for Simulator Maritime Training (CSMART) Academy at Arison Maritime Center, located in Almere, the Netherlands. Carnival has partnered with Meyer Werft and MaK Caterpillar to develop ship-specific training that will ensure all crew are fully ready when these vessels are delivered.

Carnival has a partnership with Shell, which allows crew to get hands-on LNG experience where necessary and for them to witness first-hand operations such as LNG bunkering and related LNG activities.

Training is an area that GTT is also involved in. Mr Bamak commented “Training is key. There are thousands of crew that are not involved in bunkering, but among them are people who need to know what is on board, so we need to give them a certain level of training.” GTT has developed a programme for customised training. It also includes 24/7 customised services to deal with any LNG-related issues.

Another challenge is the regulatory side. Mr Strang said that Carnival will bunker in nine ports in Europe, which means there are nine different regulatory areas to deal with. Carnival is trying to standardise this. “This is a key area of opportunity and we are working with regulators,” Mr Strang said.  

There are also design challenges. Mr Bamak said space optimisation was very important when it came to the location of the LNG tank within the vessel, as when the shift is made from heavy fuel oil to LNG, cabins can potentially be lost due to the size of LNG equipment.

LNG versus hydrogen 

Despite the challenges, LNG is still seen by many as the best option to meet future environmental regulation compared to other fuel options such as hyrdrogen, fuel cells and methanol.

Mr Grubic commented “LNG is the default choice for cruise. The key drivers are availability; there is a primary distribution of LNG available to start with.” He said that while there was “no question of other potential fuels in the industry,” the issue is very much about economics.

Indeed, he singled out an economic benefit of using LNG. “You can choose the point of supply where LNG is cheaper.”

He summed up “There are other options longer term, but the reason why we are so committed is that it is available very broadly, it is a commodity that trades globally so is accessible, it is an affordable fuel, performs well and has a global infrastructure.”

He said that the move to hydrogen was probably “too big a step for the foreseeable future”.

Mr Strang added that hydrogen weighs more and there is not the technology to transport hydrogen in bulk currently. “I am not very comfortable transporting large amounts of hydrogen. I am not saying LNG is the solution for the future, it is a solution for right now.”

While Lloyd’s Register Americas lead electromechanical specialist George Legg added “LNG is a stepping stone technology for the next 30-40 years, but we need to keep developing sources that have less environmental impact.”

The drive to increase the LNG bunkering infrastructure due to large operators like Carnival and CMA CGM will only encourage more use of LNG by cruise ship operators.

 

Carnival’s LNG orderbook

o   AIDA Cruises (AIDAnova); delivery Q3 2018.

o   Costa Cruises (Costa Smeralda); delivery October 2019.

o   Carnival Cruise Line; delivery 2020.

o   P&O Cruises UK; delivery 2020.

o   AIDA Cruises; delivery 2021.

o   Costa Cruises; delivery 2021.

o   Carnival Cruise Line; delivery 2022.

 

Key Cruise LNG statistics

18 LNG ships on order

 

25% Representing a quarter of newbuild cruise capacity

 

 

STX France launches first-of-its-kind carbon-free cruise concept

STX France has launched a carbon-free cruise design that uses wind a main source of power – a design that is first-of-its-kind – to be used alongside LNG. And the wind technology solution will be trialled on a Ponant cruise ship.

STX France vice president of projects Stéphane Cordier told Passenger Ship Technology “This is something that nobody has done before. The message is that we are doing as much as we can not to use any fuel in the cruise ship.”

Explaining why wind was chosen as the main source of power, Mr Cordier said “The main idea is to go to carbon-free cruising, for which there are many different alternatives. We see that hydrogen and fuel cells are very expensive and hydrogen is not readily available everywhere and can be very cumbersome to contain.” Whereas he pointed out that wind was available and free everywhere.

STX France decided to use sails to draw on the source of wind power and the yard created the technology to be used with the sails (Solid Sail). The sails are mounted on masts, with a benefit being that the “interference between the sail and the ship is minimised to the foot of the mast”, as there are no cables or ropes. There are three masts and three rigs. The masts rotate to adapt the sails to the wind. Mr Cordier explained an area of more than 1,000 m2 of sails was needed to get the wind power required.

STX France advocates using a hybrid propulsion system, combining wind as the main source of power with options such as LNG, and in time, potentially using fuel cells.

The ship can travel 12 knots in 15 knots of wind and if there are more than 15 knots of wind then the propellers can be used to make power for the ship load. “The system is reversed so the propeller acts as a turbine to draw power from the sails,” Mr Cordier said.

STX France has an agreement with Ponant to replace one of the existing sails on its Le Ponant cruise ship to test the shipyard’s solution.

STX France has created its carbon-free cruising concept for three ship sizes, with the largest being for a 15,000 gt cruise ship with 150 staterooms.

 

Solving the LNG infrastructure conundrum 

To establish LNG as a standard for powering cruise ships, the industry needs to ensure the infrastructure is there to support it. As cruise ships get bigger, and destinations become increasingly remote, the industry will need to think laterally to come up with ways of delivering LNG to a diversifying fleet in multiple locations across the globe.

Part of the answer to the infrastructure conundrum is cryogenic floating hose technology. In October 2017, the Universal Transfer System (UTS), developed with Connect LNG and Gas Natural Fenosa, underwent its sea launch to assess performance in real-life conditions, enabling the transfer of LNG from an LNG carrier to bunker tanks onshore.

The UTS demonstrated a system that would bring bunkering infrastructure to a vessel using a floating platform, connected to the shore by Cryoline cryogenic floating hoses. It showed how flexible floating hose technology can underpin new solutions that could easily be used to upgrade existing ports or establish new bunkering facilities with lower start-up costs and much faster installation times than heavier infrastructure would require.

With no need for heavy infrastructure, the UTS solution brings down capex for bunkering facilities significantly and allows LNG transfer to occur in locations that would otherwise be inaccessible for large vessels. It also reduces the impact of the infrastructure on the environment and can be retracted when out of use, which is essential for busy ports.

With 2018 expected to be a momentous year in the cruise industry in terms of passengers, newbuilds and new destinations, innovative solutions like UTS have a significant role to play in meeting the infrastructural challenges facing global LNG bunkering.

 

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