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LNG World Shipping

Japan orders its first LNG bunker vessel

Mon 09 Jul 2018 by Mike Corkhill

Japan orders its first LNG bunker vessel
Kawasaki will utilise its experience with the design of Japanese coastal LNGCs in the construction of the country’s first LNG bunker vessel

Central LNG Shipping Japan Corporation (CLS) has ordered an LNG bunker vessel (LNGBV) at Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI). The 3,500 m3 ship, Japan’s first LNGBV, is being built to serve LNG-powered ships visiting the country’s central, Chubu region around Nagoya and Ise Bay.   

The four companies involved in setting up the CLS joint venture in May 2018 – K Line, Chubu Electric Power, Toyota Tsusho Corp and NYK Line – have also established Central LNG Marine Fuel Japan Corp (CLMF).

CLS will own and manage the vessel while CLMF will co-ordinate LNG bunkering operations, securing LNG supplies and marketing it to shipowner end-users.

Chubu Electric and Tokyo Electric have combined their global LNG trading operations in the 50/50 Jera joint venture to create an operation with the world’s largest volume of LNG purchases. From April 2019 the two companies will also integrate their LNG terminal activities. Chubu Electric owns three terminals – Kawagoe, Yokkaichi and Joetsu – and jointly operates the Chita facility with Toho Gas.

In addition to its output of large conventional-size Moss spherical tank LNG carriers, KHI has built all six 2,500 and 3,500 m3 ships in Japan’s coastal LNG carrier fleet. The smaller ships have IMO Type C pressure vessel tanks which can accommodate a certain amount of cargo vapour pressure build-up, the maximum limit of which is never reached on the short coastal runs.

As a result, the KHI coastal LNGCs need neither reliquefaction plants nor dual-fuel propulsion systems. One of the ships, the 3,500 m3 Akebono Maru, was involved in a series of successful ship-to-ship cargo transfer operations in Japan in 2011 with a conventional-size LNGC.

KHI began work on an LNGBV design earlier this decade. The concept was based on many features of its coastal fleet but also incorporated a dual-fuel diesel-electric engine arrangement.

In March this year K Line joined SEA\LNG, the global industry coalition seeking to boost the use of LNG as a marine fuel, at the same time as the Uyeno Group. Other Japanese members of SEA\LNG include Yokohama-Kawasaki International Port Corp (YKIP), Marubeni, Mitsubishi Corp, Mitsui & Co, NYK Line, Toyota Tsusho and Sumitomo Corp.

In another recent Asian LNG bunkering initiative involving several of the CLS/CMLF members, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) agreed to work with the Ports and Harbours Bureau of Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism (MLIT) to promote the concept throughout the region.

The MPA/MLIT working group established to drive the initiative forward includes K Line, NYK Line and Mitsui OSK Lines, Japan’s leading three shipowners. One of its projects will be to conduct a feasibility study on LNG bunkering for car carriers plying between Japan and Singapore. 

Tokyo Bay is also lining up to place its first order for an LNGBV, where Yokohama, Tokyo and Kawasaki are the first Asian ports of call for ships working the North Pacific trade lanes. Sumitomo has joined up with YKIP and Uyeno Transtech to study the feasibility of LNG bunkering in Tokyo Bay, and a review of LNGBV design options is part of the agenda.

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