The first Aframax tanker to burn LNG as fuel wins the Next Generation Ship Award, beating LNG-fuelled shuttle tankers and an autonomous ship
Gagarin Prospect, the world’s first Aframax tanker designed to run on LNG, has been named as the winner of the Nor-Shipping 2019 Next Generation Ship Award at a ceremony in Oslo. The award was presented by Norwegian Minister of Trade Torbjørn Røe Isaksen at the Nor-Shipping Opening Ceremony.
Owned by Sovcomflot, the vessel beat tough competition from the fully-electric, autonomous container ship Yara Birkeland and innovative shuttle tanker concepts from AET and Teekay. Both Teekay’s ‘E-shuttle’ tanker concept and AET’s shuttle vessels utilise LNG and innovative volatile organic compound recovery systems to create highly energy efficient and environmentally friendly fuel mix solutions.
Honouring innovation in ship design and technology, the Next Generation Ship Award has become an integral part of Nor-Shipping since its launch in 2011. This year the award was combined with the Energy Efficiency Award and opened to existing ships built since the last Nor-Shipping exhibition in 2017, to older ships which have undergone retrofit or conversion, and to newbuildings scheduled to debut over the next five years.
It made for a competing field that was, jury chairman Malcolm Latarche noted, almost too close to call.
Bold decision to build
“I have been involved with these awards since they were first inaugurated, and I cannot recall a time when there was such a passionate discussion about the merits of the shortlisted candidates,” said Mr Latarche. “There was fierce debate among the jury as to which of the four ships had the best claim to the title, with the result being a majority rather than a unanimous decision.”
The jury’s final decision went to Gagarin Prospect with the argument that while it may not be as technologically advanced as some of the other contenders that are still under construction, the decision to build the ship was bold, and taken at the beginning of the seven-year time span covered by the award.
“When ordered, LNG fuelling infrastructure was in its infancy with no guarantee it would improve at the rate it has,” said Mr Latarche. “The ship was also ordered without a long-term charter in place, making the decision a pioneering one which many of the jury felt fully reflected the ethos of the Next Generation Award criteria,” he added.
Part of the ’Green Funnel’
Gagarin Prospect was delivered by South Korea’s Hyundai Samho Heavy Industries in July 2018 and is now time-chartered to Shell for 10 years. The vessel is the first of an initial order of six such vessels by Sovcomflot as part of its ‘Green Funnel’ initiative. This was launched in partnership with Shell to introduce LNG as a primary fuel for large-capacity tankers and, in general, for vessels not tied to fixed routes or set timetables.
With its ice class 1A hull, Gagarin Prospect is designed for year-round export operations from areas with challenging ice conditions. The vessel is equipped with ice radars and spotlights, ensuring full compliance with the recently introduced Polar Code. Its main engines, auxiliaries, and boilers are dual fuel and the ship runs regularly on LNG. Gagarin Prospect is fitted with a low-pressure WinGD X-DF dual-fuel engine, to minimise emissions of particulate matter. When not utilising LNG fuel, selective catalytic reduction technology enables the ship to comply with the Tier III regulations governing NOx emissions.