There are 175 LNG-fueled ships currently in operation, with 203 on order and a further 141 LNG-ready vessels in operation and sitting on the order books, according to the latest figures from SEA\LNG, a UK-based multi-sector industry coalition aiming at accelerating the adoption of LNG as a marine fuel.
LNG is seen as a transition fuel to a net-zero carbon future and, as such, it marked an acceleration in the uptake across various shipping sectors in 2019, especially for newbuilds.
The key reason behind a greater interest in LNG has been ascribed to the development of the infrastructure to support its uptake.
The latest overview of the market from SEA\LNG indicated that LNG can now be delivered to vessels in some 93 ports with a further 54 ports in the process of facilitating LNG bunkering investments and operations.
When it comes to LNG bunkering, there are active bunkering capabilities or plans to provide LNG bunkers in numerous locations around the globe, including nine out of the world’s top ten ports, the coalition pointed out.
LNG bunkering is already available in the Port of Rotterdam, Port of Amsterdam, Port of Zeebrugge as well as the Port of Barcelona.
In early 2019 there were just six bunkering vessels around the world. As of February 2020, there are 12 in operation with a further 27 on order and / or undergoing commissioning.
Last year saw Nauticor’s 7,500 cbm Kairos – currently the largest operational LNG-bunkering vessel – launch LNG bunkering in the Port of Visby, Sweden.
Furthermore, Elenger started providing LNG bunkering services to LNG-powered vessels in the Port of Hanko, Finland, in addition to the ports of Tallinn and Helsinki.
Also in Finland, Gasum’s first ship-to-ship bunkering involving a cruise ship took place at the Meyer Turku shipyard during November 2019. Gasum’s LNG bunker vessel Coralius mainly operates in the North Sea and the Skagerrak area.
In North America, there has been rapid development of LNG as a fuel – especially along the East Coast of the United States.
At Eagle LNG’s Talleyrand LNG Bunker Station at the Port of Jacksonville (JAXPORT), three LNG powered cargo ships, the first two at Tote Maritime Puerto Rico and the third at Crowley Maritime, already sail regular voyages to Puerto Rico supported by the LNG bunkering infrastructure accomplished by barge and shore-based methods.
In Japan, Toho Gas Co., and Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (MOL) carried out the first LNG bunkering at the Port of Nagoya, Japan. LNG was transported via truck from the Toho Gas Chita-Midorihama LNG Terminal and supplied with a truck-to-ship system to the LNG-fuelled tug, Ishin, berthed at the Port of Nagoya’s Garden Pier. The same vessel was also bunkered at the Port of Kobe.
Furthermore, NYK, together with Kyushu Electric Power, Saibu Gas, and The Chugoku Electric Power, conducted a truck-to-ship LNG bunkering demonstration at the port of Kitakyushu, the first LNG bunkering in the Setouchi and Kyushu areas of western Japan.
Singapore is LNG bunkering ready and is preparing a swathe of incentives for shipping companies that decide to use gas instead of bunker fuel.
The Maritime Port Authority (MPA) of Singapore expects the first of its two LNG bunker tankers to facilitate ship-to-ship LNG bunkering for ocean going vessels from the second half of 2020 onwards.
Singapore’s largest LNG bunkering vessel is under construction at Sembcorp Marine for Japan’s MOL. The bunker ship will be the second vessel of its kind in Singapore and is scheduled to start services after its scheduled delivery in early 2021.
DNV GL forecasts for 2050 that LNG would account for 41% of marine fuel portfolio.
However, for the industry to meet the IMO carbon targets of 2050, there is a need for zero-emission technologies to be introduced. Alternative fuels such as hydrogen and ammonia are expected to play a more prominent role in the decarbonization of the industry.
“But these alternatives currently lack the regulatory framework, production capacity, acceptable safety protocols, and bunkering infrastructure for widespread adoption across deep sea shipping,” SEA\LNG said.
The coalition believes that global speed restrictions purported by some as the ‘silver bullet’ to achieve emissions targets “is another red herring.”
“Speed limits take no account of the consequences of this action on other parts of the highly efficient international multimodal logistics chain where shipping plays a vital role. This action could act as a disincentive for shipowners and managers to innovate and implement alternative fuels with lower GHG emissions and develop other technological efficiencies,” the coalition added.
“What we can all agree on is the need to act now – doing nothing is not an acceptable solution – we cannot wait for the ‘magic elixir’. “
SEA\LNG stressed that in order to develop the net-zero carbon future within a couple of decades there is a need for a team effort.
“In support of this, the next independently conducted report from SEA-LNG explores the availability of liquid biomethane and liquid synthetic methane. Although research continues, the initial findings on the potential global availability of bio-methane in the next decade are particularly exciting.”
The coalition expects the final results of the study to become available in the first quarter of 2020.