New cargo containment systems, the uptake of LNG as a fuel and increasing digitalisation are some of the issues now attracting the interest of class societies
“Shipping is faced with tectonic shifts,” says class society DNV GL chief executive Knut Ørbeck-Nilssen. “Shifts in an increasingly unpredictable market, shifts in regulations and shifts in technology.”
Chief among shipping’s near-term regulatory concerns is the impending IMO 2020 sulphur cap, which will increase fuel costs for shipowners and has broader implications for the global fuel supply chain.
In less than six months, the 0.5% IMO global sulphur cap will enter into force, bringing with it all the uncertainties surrounding low sulphur fuel availability, new fuel specifications, increased use of alternative fuels such as LNG and exhaust gas scrubbers and compliance and enforcement.
“Ships using fuel oil with less than 0.5% sulphur content will face a significant increase in operating costs as the price of low sulphur fuel is expected to be higher than the cost of high sulphur fuel”, says Korean Register (KR) chairman and chief executive Jeong-kie Lee. “Likewise, ship owners who install scrubbers will incur the expense of installing the new equipment. Each method has its pros and cons.”
LNG as a marine fuel has a central role to play in complying with the IMO sulphur cap, points out Mr Lee. “We feel that LNG offers clear benefits over the two other methods. Compared to traditional marine fuels, LNG reduces CO2 emissions by 20 to 30% and completely eliminates SOx and PM emissions. In addition, it requires less storage capacity than other fuels and economically, its price is quite stable compared to oil because the LNG market is less volatile.”
While noting KR supports shipowners no matter what method they choose to comply with the IMO 2020 sulphur cap, Mr Lee says KR invested “significant resources” into the development of class technical services for global LNG partners.
The Korean class society has developed class guidelines for LNG bunkering shuttles and floating LNG bunkering terminals and worked with Kogas to develop an LNG bunkering standard ship type and related technology.
In 2018, KR developed risk assessment technology with South Korean shipbuilder Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) for LNG dual fuel 180,000 dwt bulk carriers. KR also completed R&D for the development of LNG-floating production storage and offloading (FPSO) design-related technologies, including five safety design guidelines and three in-house risk analysis programmes applicable to LNG–FPSO design.
Revisions to IGF code
Besides LNG, some shipowners are burning sulphur-free alternative fuels such as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and methyl/ethyl alcohol to reduce CO2 emissions by 10% to 20% compared to conventional oil fuels to comply with stricter emissions regulations.
These alternative fuels have lower flashpoints compared to traditional fuels. Particular attention needs to be given to ensuring adequate safety precautions when using low-flashpoint fuels in order to decrease the potential risk of fire and explosions that may arise as a result of fuel leakage onboard a ship.
At its 101st session meeting in June, IMO’s Marine Safety Committee discussed revisions to the Code of Safety for Ships Using Gases and other Low-Flashpoint Fuels (IGF Code). The current code however, does not address specific regulations for alternative fuels other than LNG.
“In addition to LNG, low-flashpoint fuels like methyl/ethyl alcohol and LPG are providing ships with alternative fuel options that have diverse characteristics in terms of environmental performance, availability, price, and more”, says ClassNK corporate officer and director of plan approval and technical solution division Hayato Suga. “Regardless of the choice, adequate safety measures are essential. Our latest guidelines have incorporated regulatory trends and our expertise proposes the appropriate requirements tailored to methyl, ethyl alcohol, and LPG respectively”, he says.
ClassNK’s newly released “Guidelines for Ships Using Low-Flashpoint Fuels (Methyl/Ethyl Alcohol / LPG)” divides targeted vessels into three categories: ships using methyl/ethyl alcohol as fuel; ships fuelled by LPG; and liquid gas carriers fuelled by LPG. They take into consideration the properties of each fuel type and ship regulations and indicate safety requirements for the arrangement and installation of the low-flashpoint fuel-related systems for minimising risks to vessels, crew, and the environment.
While he emphasises that the majority of the oceangoing fleet will use conventional and new low-sulphur residual and distillate fuels, ABS senior vice president of engineering Patrick Ryan says in the short- and mid-term, “shipping will trend towards a reduction in conventional fuels in favour of alternative fuels such as low flashpoint fuels and biofuels”.
ABS issued its Advisory on Gas and Other Low Flashpoint Fuels, which is “designed to help shipowners and operators understand the available technologies and technical considerations to make the right decisions for their fleet as they navigate this challenging environment.”
To support the decision-making process for future ship propulsion arrangements and fuel strategies, the advisory looks at the regulatory background for gas and other low flashpoint fuels. There is also an overview of the technologies and operational impacts involved.
LNG cargo containment and fuel systems
With some 135 gas carriers under its class, KR has extensive experience and technical capability in LNG cargo containment systems (CCS), having developed standard designs and provided class services for GTT’s Mark III, Mark III Flex and No96 designs among others. KR has also provided technical support for DSME’s Solidus CCS.
Much of the development in CCS focuses on reducing initial system cost and improving boil-off rate (BOR) performance. DSME received general approval for ship applications (GASA) for Solidus in June from DNV GL, clearing the way for its use in LNG carriers. Solidus has a reported daily BOR of 0.049%, which is 30% better performance compared to the current lowest level.
The GASA follows a framework agreement between DNV GL and DSME to co-operate on projects to develop advanced technologies to maximise the safety and efficiency of ships and offshore units. The two organisations plan joint studies regarding 3D model hull approval, estimating the allowable wave heights for a 174,000- m3 LNG floating storage and regasification unit (FSRU), and a structural safety assessment for the Solidus LNG cargo containment system.
KR developed guidelines for LNG temperature distribution analysis to enhance the safety of LNG CCS, the first IACS member to do so. The guidelines can be applied to membrane tanks and all other types of LNG CCS, including independent tanks such as Type A, B and C. The guidelines offer standard procedures for analytical methods, enabling faster calculations and more precise numerical calculation analysis.
Working with academic institutions and industry on various R&D projects, KR has developed guidance for the assessment of sloshing load and the resulting structural strength of CCS.
KR also contributed to the application of high manganese austenitic steel to LNG storage and fuel tanks. The society classed and provided technical support for the first 50,000 dwt LNG-fueled bulk carrier using high manganese steel for its LNG fuel tank. It conducted intensive analysis into the safety of the base metal and welds, developing the exact specification for the high manganese steel.
The “plug and play” capability of floating storage and regasification units (FSRUs) has made them an important bridge for LNG to quickly reach new markets, serving a valuable niche in the LNG value chain.
Of the 36 existing LNG import markets as of February 2019, 16 had FSRU capacity, and five of those had onshore capacity as well, according to IGU World LNG Report.
Nearly 40% of the FSRU fleet is in Bureau Veritas (BV) class, and the Paris-based organisation has to its credit the first FSRU newbuild, delivered in 2005 for Excelerate Energy, and the largest FSRU ever built, MOL’s 263,000 m3 unit delivered in 2017.
In 2018, BV issued new and updated notations and guidance to support the construction and operation of both FSRUs and floating storage units (FSUs).
The conversion guidelines address issues that may arise during the conversion of LNG carriers into FSRUs or FSUs, helping shipowners to either avoid or overcome potential problems.
BV, Marine and Offshore COO Matthieu de Tugny said the guidance was released to provide the rule framework to develop both FSRU and FSU terminals – both for newbuildings and conversions. Last November, BV published NR645, the first rules document fully dedicated to FSRUs.
BV provides a broad range of second-party services, with risk assessment and support including tools for sloshing analysis, mooring, computational fluid dynamics, hydro-structural assessments and ice/structure interaction.
Impact of digitalisation
Increasing digitalisation in shipping is also transforming the way class societies perform ship inspections. KR is offering remote surveys using drones to conduct ship inspections from its network of offices, according to Mr Lee. “Developed initially for bulk carriers’ cargo holds and the ballast tanks in barges, KR is also using drones for close-up surveys to inspect detailed structural components”, he says.
Various virtual reality-based application systems have been applied by KR since 2014 for ship inspection training and ship crew safety training, using digital 3D replicas of the relevant ships, with more applications under development.
“Traditionally, the design approval of a ship by a classification society has been a paper-based process,” says Mr Lee, “involving the exchange of numerous large-format drawings between the shipyard and the classification society. However, KR has developed a digital 3D model-based design approval system which provides a more accurate and intuitive review of ship structure.”
Cyber security risks
Mr Ørbeck-Nilssen points out that while there are many benefits that can be unlocked by increasing digitalisation, there is also increased risk of cyber-attack, due to vessel automation and ship-to-shore connectedness.
IMO requires cyber security to be addressed as part of a safety management system by 2021. At its 101st session meeting in June, MSC endorsed the third version of the Industry Guidelines on Cyber Security on Board Ships which are intended to raise the understanding and awareness of cyber risk management. It is not intended to be technical guidance for ship personnel; instead, it includes information on the response to, and recovery from, cyber incidents and includes information for shipowners and operators on how to comply with resolution MSC.428(98) Maritime Cyber Risk Management in Safety Management Systems (SMS). This guidance is also aligned with MSC-FAL.1/Circ.3 and is provided in annex 2 of the guidelines.
In addition, MSC also discussed inconsistencies in the implementation of MSC.428(98) and encouraged administrations to include cyber risks in safety management systems. It was noted that while regulations in SOLAS chapter XI-2 and part A of the ISPS Code include cyber risk management elements, a separate cyber security management system from that of the safety management system is not necessary.