Relevant topics

2018 October 24

Gas for ships

All over the world, ship owners continue adapting to new requirements on content of harmful substances in marine fuel. The number of vessels running on liquefied natural gas is increasing with Russia gradually creating its own LNG-powered fleet. Coastal infrastructure will appear as the number of such ships grows.

Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is getting more and more popular marine fuel, especially in sulfur emission control areas.

Russia also has its plans on building its own LNG fleet and costal infrastructure.

Tankers and bulkers

In Russia, a pioneer in the segment of tanker fleet running on LNG is PAO Sovcomflot. In February 2018, Shell signed time charter agreements with SCF Group (PAO Sovcomflot) for two 114,000 DWT dual-fuelled Aframax tankers. Gagarin Prospect is the first of these. The ship named after the first Russian cosmonaut entered into a Shell multi-year time charter in July 2018. The other tanker, Samuel Prospect, named after the founder of Shell Transport & Trading Co, Sir Marcus Samuel, is scheduled for delivery into Shell time charter in 2019.

PAO Sovcomflot (SCF Group) is also going to have a series of two next generation large-capacity Aframax tankers built at Zvezda Shipbuilding Complex with the support of VEB-Leasing which will will finance the construction of the tankers, whilst a subsequent 20-year time-charter for them has been agreed with Rosneft. The vessels will have a deadweight of 114,000 tonnes and a 1A/1B ice class, which makes them able to operate all year round in areas with difficult ice conditions, including sub-Arctic seas and Russian ports of the Baltic region.

In early October, specialized LNG bunkering ship Cardissa, a unit of Royal Dutch Shell, successfully performed its first ship-to-ship LNG bunkering of the Gagarin Prospect. The operation took place at the port of Rotterdam. The Shell Shipping & Maritime managed Cardissa can hold around 6,500 cubic metres of LNG fuel.

In mid-October 2018, the world’s largest LNG bunker supply vessel Kairos was delivered to Babcock Schulte Energy (BSE). The ship, with an LNG capacity of 7,500 m³, will be ready for operations before the end of 2018. The tanker was built at Hyundai Mipo Dockyard (HMD) in Ulsan, South Korea.

October 2018 also saw Damen Shipyards Group starting building LNG bunker ships with a focus on the Baltic Sea. Russian companies are getting a good look at the new design. In the beginning of October,  DAMEN signed a contract with Estonia’s leading energy company Eesti Gaas for the construction of the lead ship in a series of LNG bunker vessels to operate in the Baltic Sea.  The 100-metre vessel of Project LGC 6000 LNG will be built at DAMEN Yichang Shipyard in China and will carry 6,000m³ of LNG.  From September 2020, Eesti Gaas will operate this LNG bunker vessel under a long term charter from its parent company and owner of the vessel, Infortar AS. The technical management for the vessel will be provided by the region’s leading shipping company Tallink Grupp.

Russian companies will also build LNG bunkering ships: Gazpromneft Marine Bunker is going to put into operation an LNG bunkering tanker in the middle of 2019. The tanker capacity will be 3,000 cbm of LNG, draft – 4.5 m, ice class - 1В. The vessel will operate in the North-West Region of Russia.

Krylov State research Center is designing LNG bunker vessels to supply liners, tramp vessels and small crafts.

RF Ministry of Industry and Trade supports the activities on creation of ships powered by LNG through its own project.

LNG revolution has also covered the segment bulk carriers. In October 2018, South Korea's H-Line Shipping Co. has placed an order for two LNG fueled Capesize bulkers with shipbuilder Hyundai Samho Heavy Industries Co. The 180,000 dwt vessels will operate on a route between South Korea and Australia starting from 2021 and will the first LNG fueled Korean ships to operate on an international shipping route LNG ships in South Korea to sail on a foreign shipping route. The government is providing funding worth 9.6 billion won (about $8.5 million) for the project. The funding is being provided ahead of the entrance into force of 2020 sulphur cap.

Icebreakers

Construction of LNG powered ships is also a promising trend for Arctic shipping. Using LNG as fuel in the Arctic “is absolutely correct”, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in August at his joint press conference with Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö. Finland already has one dual-fuel icebreaker, IB Polaris. Its endurance (10 days) is quite low so far. Arctia Ltd., state operator of icebreakers in Finland, told IAA PortNews it is looking into construction of the second LNG-powered icebreaker though construction of more icebreakers running on LNG is challenged amid insufficient infrastructure for LNG bunkering. Master of IB Polaris says the icebreaker is fuelled with LNG in Tornio through truck-to-ship bunkering. According to him, the icebreaker demonstrates higher maneuverability when running on diesel fuel.

Russia also has its plans on construction of LNG fueled icebreakers for servicing gas fields. FSUE Atomflot is going to build a series of four icebreakers. According to Atomflot, they need normal Arctic icebreakers with shaft power of 40 MW minimum.

A competition for designing and construction of an LNG-powered icebreaker can be announced before the end of the year or in the beginning of 2019, Konstantin Knyazevsky, Deputy General Director of FSUE Atomflot, told IAA PortNews. According to him, an inquiry for time and capabilities as well as a request for commercial proposal has been submitted to shipyards with required capacity. That will let make estimations and set a maximum price for a competition.

Konstantin Knyazevsky emphasized that four Russian shipyards are able to cope with such an order: Vyborgsky Shipyard,  Admiralteiskie Verfi, Baltiysky Zavod and Zvezda.

PAO NOVATEK and FSUE Atomflot  are going to set up a joint venture operate icebreakers powered by liquefied natural gas.

Cruise ships

LNG is getting more and more popular in the segment of cruise ships as specific design of cruise liners and free space available on them allows for placing LNG tanks.

In August 2018, Meyer Werft (Germany) floated out the world’s largest cruise ship powered by liquefied natural gas for AIDA Cruises. AIDA will take over the new ship from the Meyer Werft shipyard on November 15, 2018, in Bremerhaven. AIDAnova is the world’s first cruise ship that can be powered by low-emission liquefied natural gas (LNG) both at sea and in port. Two further AIDA ships of this new generation will be built by 2023 – also at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg.

Carnival, Royal Carribean, Ponant and other cruise operators also place orders for construction of LNG powered liners.

Infrastructure

Investments in development of dedicated infrastructure are made all over the world as the number of ships running on LNG is growing. Cryogas-Vysotsk, the first project to be implemented in Russia, provides for construction of a small LNG plant near Vysotsk (the Gulf of Finland). The first turn with annual capacity of 330,000 tonnes is to be put into operation by the end of 2018. The project also foresees the construction of a berth for LNG bunkering.

Besides, in early October 2018, Gazprom Gas-Engine Fuel LLC and Bronka operator Fenix LLC signed a Memorandum on Cooperation in sales of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in Bronka. As part of cooperation the parties are going to look into sale of LNG as bunker fuel for sea and river ships at Multipurpose Sea Cargo Complex “Bronka”. Besides, the parties have agreed on joint implementation of activities aimed to create infrastructure for LNG bunkering of vessels in the territory of MSCC Bronka. The parties also agreed to cooperate in promotion of LNG as vehicle fuel to reduce the negative impact of transport on environment.

Baltic LNG (Ust-Luga), CS Portovaya (Vysotsk) and LNG-Gorskaya (Saint-Petersburg) are the projects announced earlier. 

So, construction of LNG powered ships is gaining momentum worldwide. Gas fuel revolution has become a reality. Russia, with its gas resources, shipbuilding expertise and ad hoc research and design organizations has a good potential for this development trend. It is important to have added value made in the country, to have efficient domestic projects and technologies, to establish local production of required components. This challenge will be met with the help of CNII Kurs which established a Center for shipboard equipment localization with a unified e-base of Russian equipment suppliers.

Practical aspects of LNG bunkering will be discussed at the Second Conference “LNG Fleet and LNG Bunkering in Russia” in Moscow on October 24.

Vitaly Chernov