The container and cargo ship segment is the smallest, in terms of the number of ships in service and on order, of the four segments into which LNG World Shipping groups LNG-powered vessels. However, it has recently been the focus of some dramatic news as regards the use of LNG as marine fuel.
In November 2017 the French liner service operator CMA CGM specified dual-fuel engines for nine new 22,000 TEU container ships. They will be not only the largest vessels of this type ever ordered, but also the largest ships that are not LNG carriers to be powered by LNG.
Five of the ships will be built at the Hudong-Zhonghua yard and four at the neighbouring Shanghai facility of Waigaoqiao. All will be delivered between the end of 2019 and the end of 2020.
These breakthrough ships will be propelled by the largest gas-burning engines ever built and boast an 18,600 m3 LNG bunker tank of the GTT Mark III membrane type. The dual-fuel propulsion units chosen for the vessels are Winterthur Gas & Diesel Ltd (WinGD) low-pressure, two-stroke 12X92DF engines. The 12-cylinder, 92 cm bore engine on each ship is rated 63,840 kW at 80 rpm.
The bunker tank capacity on the BV-classed CMA CGM ships is five times larger than any yet specified for an LNG-powered ship. The GTT contract also marks the first time a non-Type C containment system has been specified for an LNG bunker tank.
Total will provide the 300,000 tonnes of LNG per annum that will be required to fuel the nine vessels. It is estimated that this volume is equal to that consumed by the entire existing fleet of 121 gas-powered ships.
The entry into service of the new CMA CGM fleet of dual-fuel ultra-large container ships (ULCS) will spur major developments in the provision of LNG fuelling infrastructure worldwide, including the largest ever gas bunkering vessel. LNG as marine fuel is about to enter a new era.
Total and Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL) have jointly ordered, from the Hudong-Zhonghua yard, the 135 m LNG bunker vessel (LNGBV) that will be required to service the CMA CGM box ships. It will have the same capacity and utilise the same membrane containment system as the bunker tank on the container ships.
The Total/MOL vessel’s 18,600 m3 capacity will make it over three times the size of the largest LNGBV currently in service. The Hudong yard, incidentally, is also building the Mark III membrane bunker tanks for all nine of the container ships.
The LNGBV, which will be based in North West Europe, has been sized to ensure that each ULCS can make an Asia/Europe round trip on a single fuelling. It is likely that such large LNGBVs will not be required in future because the anticipated spread of LNG bunkering infrastructure will provide a wide range of fuelling locations from which to choose.
Where CMA CGM and its LNG fuel suppliers lead, others will follow. The bunkering arrangements put in place for the ULCSs will also be able to service a wide range of vessels with more modest bunkering requirements. In addition, the bold moves by CMA CGM, Total and MOL reinforce similar initiatives by Shell, Engie (now part of Total), ExxonMobil and many others and will lead to further investments in LNG bunkering infrastructure.
Shell’s list of LNG customers, for example, continues to grow. In October 2017 Siem Car Carriers signed up with the energy major for the supply of LNG fuel for two pure car and truck carriers (PCTCs) it is having built at Xiamen Shipyard for charter to Volkswagen, for the carriage of Volkswagen vehicles from Europe to North America, starting in 2019.
Shell will bunker the vessels in North West Europe and at a second supply point in the US by means of ship-to-ship transfers from dedicated LNGBVs. Each of the 200 m car carriers will have space for up to 6,500 vehicles and be fitted with a pair of IMO Type C bunker tanks with a total capacity of 3,600 m3 supplied by Gloryholder Liquefied Gas Machinery.
MAN Diesel & Turbo will supply the M-type, electronically controlled, gas-injection engine that will power each ship. The high-pressure, two-stroke, dual-fuel units will develop 12,600 kW, making them the most powerful dual-fuel PCTCs yet built. They will also be the first LNG-powered PCTCs employed on long-haul international routes.