The first LNG-powered dry cargo ships to go into service were four fishfeed carriers for Norwegian owners. The fjords that punctuate Norway’s long western coastline are dotted with fish farms and keeping these fish stocks fed is now big business.
The ships represent a new generation of fishfeed carrier, transporting upwards of 2,000 tonnes of fishfeed pellets in bulk rather than in traditional “big bags”. All the vessels are powered by Rolls-Royce lean-burn gas engines.
Over the past year the four fishfeed carriers in service have been joined by inaugural pairs of LNG-fuelled container and roro ships. The fact that the latter types of vessel hold the greatest potential for growth in the LNG-powered dry cargo ship sector is highlighted by the current orderbook.
In contrast to the single new fishfeed carrier that has been contracted, there are 15 container ships and five roro vessels on order. The roro category includes two car carriers and two container/roro ships.
Construction of the first two roro ships – NorLines’ Kvitbjørn and Kvitnos – in China posed some logistical challenges. Because the ships are powered by Rolls-Royce gas-only engines, the long maiden voyages to Norwegian home waters needed some carefully planned LNG bunkering stops en route.
In the event the 400m3 fuel tank on each ship was refilled by LNG import terminals at Kochi in India and Cartagena in Spain on the 13,000-mile journey.
Ordered by TOTE Maritime at the NASSCO yard in the US in December 2012, the recently delivered Isla Bella and Perla Del Caribe are the first newbuilding vessels with MAN’s ME-GI high-pressure, two-stroke, dual-fuel engines. With a 3,100 teu capacity, they are also the world’s first container ships and the largest dry cargo ships powered by LNG.
Isla Bella and Perla Del Caribe are based in Jacksonville and serve Puerto Rico from the Florida port. A small liquefaction plant is being built in the port to provide LNG for the ships but, until that facility is completed later this year, TOTE is using a fleet of 25 cryogenic tank containers to truck the bunker fuel from an LNG peak-shaving complex in Macon, Georgia.
Soon to ply Europe’s shortsea container trades will be a distinctive series of six 1,400 teu ships being built at the Yangzhou Guoyu yard in China for 2016-17 delivery and operation by Containerships of Finland. The newbuildings will be the first container ships to use two-stroke, low-pressure, dual-fuel propulsion, in the form of a Wärtsilä 7-cylinder RT-flex50DF engine.
The ships feature an innovative design in which the LNG bunker tanks are positioned between two cargo holds to reduce the impact of gas fuel system on the container-carrying capacity.
The auxiliary engine that generates electricity for each ship’s 300 reefer container slots will also be a dual-fuel unit.
No new LNG-fuelled dry cargo vessel has been ordered over the past 12 months, with the result that the combined in-service and on-order fleet remains unchanged at 29 vessels.