The morning after accepting the LNG World Shipping safety award on behalf of the Society of International Gas Tanker and Terminal Operators (SIGTTO), general manager Andrew Clifton outlined how the organisation promotes safe operations and looked to the future the industry.
SIGTTO is a not-for-profit organisation with a membership comprising more than 200 LNG and LPG tanker and terminal operators. A large majority of LNG tanker and terminal operators are members and more than 50% of LPG tanker and terminal operators are signed up. The organisation holds NGO status at IMO and moved its liaison office to a new location in London in mid-2018.
With total LNG cargoes transported expected to reach 100,000 next year, there have not been any cargo-related fatalities on board LNG vessels or any losses of cargo-tank containment. This can be attributed to IMO's International Gas Carrier (IGC) code, Mr Clifton said, noting that this is the only IMO code that was not created in the wake of a large-scale disaster. A large part of SIGTTO's activities involve countering what Mr Clifton described as "the anti-LNG lobby" and educating the public as to what the actual hazards of LNG are and how they can be mitigated, as opposed to the perceived hazards.
He gave several examples of incidents involving gas-carrying vessels that demonstrate they are unfairly maligned as potential explosion risks. One was Gaz Fountain, an LPG carrier that was struck by missiles in 1984 during the Iran-Iraq War. The aft cargo tank was ripped open and while the vessel did not explode it did catch fire. The crew were able to evacuate without any fatalities and once the fire was extinguished and power restored a couple of days later, 93% of the cargo was able to be salvaged. "This is a great example of how robust gas ships are," he said. He added that the spacing between hulls incorporated into the IGC code meant that when LNG carrier El Paso Paul Kayser ran aground at full service speed in the Strait of Gibraltar in 1979 there was no loss of cargo tank containment.
Mr Clifton noted that transport of gases other than the traditional LNG and LPG is on the rise, with ethane gas from the US increasingly being transported, and a compressed natural gas (CNG) vessel currently under construction in China for service on Indonesia's domestic market. "I expect to see more CNG ships in the future," he said.
Looking to the future, Mr Clifton said SIGTTO expects to see increasing amounts of non-hydrocarbon gases being carried at sea. For example, hydrogen carriers are already being experimented with in anticipation of IMO's 2050 carbon requirements coming into force. A small-sized pilot vessel is being constructed in Kobe, Japan, which will act as a pilot project with lessons learned being applied to subsequent larger-scale hydrogen carriers, Mr Clifton said, adding "Decarbonisation is happening a lot faster than anyone thought it would and hydrogen is an answer to that as there's no carbon."