An LNG World Shipping survey of the new but rapidly evolving LNG bunker vessel (LNGBV) sector shows that there are now five such vessels in service and 10 on order. Furthermore, 2018 is set to be a watershed year for the fleet.
A ship almost three times the size of any LNGBV yet built was ordered last week, while the first Spanish LNG ship-to-ship (STS) fuelling operation, using a newly converted bunker barge, was carried out in Bilbao.
Over the remaining 11 months of the year three new dedicated seagoing LNGBVs, one of which is a converted coastal LNG carrier, are set to enter service, as are at least three new LNG bunker barges for operations in port and sheltered waters.
The bunker barge delivery tally in 2018 might well be larger as there could be further surprises like the Bilbao barge. That particular project caught the industry unawares in recent weeks when news of its inaugural LNG bunkering operation was announced.
On top of these scheduled vessel deliveries, construction work will continue on several LNGBVs contracted for completion in 2019 and 2020 while the likelihood of further bunker vessel newbuildings being ordered this year is virtually guaranteed. These additional fuellers will be needed to cater for the growing number of large LNG-powered vessels on order and the expanding portfolio of LNG bunkering projects being developed in ports worldwide.
The STS LNG transfers made possible with LNGBVs enable much quicker and more efficient bunkering operations than is possible with jettyside truck-to-ship (TTS) transfers. In fact, for large LNG-powered ships on quick port turnaround timetables, LNGBVs are the only viable option.
Building on last year
Although picking up steam, STS LNG bunkering is still in its early days. The first three purpose-built seagoing LNGBVs entered into service in 2017. These are the Zeebrugge-based, 5,000 m3 Engie Zeebrugge, the 6,500 m3 Cardissa in Rotterdam and the 5,800 m3 Coralius, which is serving in the western Baltic Sea, including the Skagerrak.
The only other LNGBVs currently in service are the Bilbao barge and a small converted fueller in Stockholm named Seagas. There are also a handful of LNG fuelling pontoons stationed along Chinaís rivers and inland waterways, but these vessels are not included in this LNGBV survey as they are moored to their waterside jetties and vessels to be fuelled come to them.
Operational as an LNGBV since 2013, Seagas is a self-propelled vessel and its IMO Type C cargo tank has a capacity of 180 m3. On most days of the week it sails across Stockholm harbour and transfers 70 tonnes of LNG to the bunker tanks of the passenger/car ferry Viking Grace in an STS operation using cryogenic hoses.
The Bilbao barge is the Oizmendi, a 3,200 dwt pollution control vessel prior to the conversion. Oizmendi, which has been provided with two 300 m3, deck-mounted, Type C LNG tanks, carried out its first STS fuelling operation on 3 February 2018 when it transferred 40 tonnes of LNG to the cement carrier Ireland.
LNGBV deliveries in 2018
Due for completion in Q1 2018, the 2,200 m3 Clean Jacksonville is the next LNGBV set to enter service. The non-propelled vessel will be North Americaís first seagoing LNG bunker barge.
Clean Jacksonville will be stationed in the Florida port of Jacksonville and TOTE Maritimeís two new 3,100 TEU Marlin-class, LNG-powered container ships that sail regularly to Puerto Rico will be the anchor customers of the vesselís cryogenic fuelling services.
Clean Jacksonville has a Gaztransport & Technigaz (GTT) Mark III cargo tank and is the first LNGBV to feature a membrane containment system. The vessel will be equipped to transfer LNG at a rate of up to 500 m3/hour. TOTE has been using jettyside TTS transfers and a special four-truck loading manifold to fuel its box ships until Clean Jacksonville is ready.
Another upcoming LNGBV that will be used primarily in port waters is Titan LNGís FlexFueler1 pontoon. On track for completion in Q3 2018, the newbuild has been designed to fuel inland waterway and small seagoing vessels throughout the Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam region and will initially be positioned in Amsterdam.
FlexFueler1 will be provided with two 380 m3 LNG tanks, while a further two such tanks could be installed should market demand warrant it. The Titan LNG vessel will be able to deliver LNG at rates of up to 600 m3/hour and among its initial customers will be the gas-powered inland waterway tankers Greenstream and Green Rhine.
A 7,500 m3 LNGBV that Koreaís Hyundai Mipo yard is building for Babcock Schulte Energy, a Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM)/Babcock International joint venture, is due for commissioning in September 2018, and the vesselís many distinctive features will make its appearance a notable occasion. An STS transfer rate of up to 1,250 m3/hour is one of its capabilities.
The LNGBV will store vaporised LNG, generated during STS transfers and returned from the receiving vessel, in a compressed natural gas tank prior to its introduction into the dual-fuel propulsion system as fuel. Also, by using trim tanks with passivated water only, the LNGBV design obviates the need for a ballast water treatment system.
The BSM/Babcock vessel will be chartered by Blue LNG, a Nauticor/Klaipedos Nafta joint venture and be based at the port of Klaipeda in Lithuania. Clients will include Gothia Tanker Alliance, the Swedish operator of a fleet of regional distribution tankers that run on LNG.
The LNGC to be converted into an LNGBV is Anthony Vederís 7,500 m3 Coral Methane. Shell will use the vessel for STS fuelling operations in the southern part of the North Sea and the Mediterranean and the conversion project, to be carried out early in 2018 and an industry first, entails the integration of specific bunkering equipment into the shipís cargo-handling arrangements.
The largest LNGBV yet ordered mentioned in the second paragraph is the 18,600 m3 fueller ordered by Total Marine Fuels Global Solutions (TMFGS) and Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL) at the Hudong-Zhonghua yard in China for delivery in 2020.
Total has won the contract to supply the 300,000 tonnes per annum of LNG needed to power the fleet of nine new 22,000 TEU dual-fuel container ships ordered recently by the French liner operator CMA CGM. It will use its Hudong newbuilding to fuel the box ships, each of which will have an LNG bunker tank of 18,600 m3.
The TMFGS/MOL vessel will be able to provide enough LNG in each of its STS fuelling operations to propel a mega box ship over a return journey on its Asia-Europe service route and will be based in northern Europe.
Both the cargo tanks on the bunker vessel and the bunker tank on the CMA CGM container ships are being built to the GTT Mark III membrane design. As a result, the Total bunkering operations will involve LNG bunker transfers at atmospheric pressure. All other STS LNG bunkering operations carried out to date have been from one IMO Type C pressure vessel tank to another.
Long-term charters with Shell have supported the orders for two further LNGBVs currently under construction, for delivery in 2019 and 2020. The first is a 3,000 m3 LNG bunker barge with four Type C tanks that a Victrol/CFT joint venture is building for stationing in Rotterdam and the fuelling of inland waterway vessels.
The second is a 4,000 m3 barge that will be an integral part of a vessel being built for Quality LNG Transport (Q-LNG) to the articulated tug/barge design. Shell will use the vessel to supply LNG as marine fuel along the US southeast coast, most notably for cruise ships touring Florida and the Caribbean, including two Carnival Cruise ships that will be its foundation customers.
The remaining three LNGBVs on order are set for 2019 deliveries and all are 7,500 m3 coastal LNG distribution tankers that will also be provided with an STS vessel fuelling capability. Two are being built at Keppel Singmarine for Stolt-Nielsen Gas while Korea Line contracted the third at Samsung Heavy Industries against a charter from Korea Gas Corp (Kogas). The latter vessel will have a membrane tank built to the Kogas KC-1 design.