New LNG-fuelled ferries including Brittany Ferries' Honfleur will help to boost bunkering infrastructure
Increasing numbers of LNG-fuelled ferries are supporting the spread of varied bunkering infrastructure across Europe.
However, the English Channel will have to wait a little longer for its first gas-fuelled ship. Brittany Ferries’ 42,400-gt ropax vessel Honfleur was due to be delivered from German shipbuilder Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesellschaft in June. It will now arrive later this year after the yard was hit by financial penalties following an earlier late delivery.
At least the company’s bunkering infrastructure will be ready. With no permanent bunkering along the busy Ouistreham-Portsmouth route, Brittany Ferries has opted for truck-based fuelling at Ouistreham that deploys an innovative combination of onboard vehicles and cranes. Lorries with ISO tanks will be driven directly onto the 187.4-m vessel, with the tanks hoisted into position in frames next to a fixed storage tank with a maximum capacity of 350 m3 at the rear of the superstructure. Once empty, the tank containers will be offloaded during the next call at Ouistreham and replaced by filled units.
Honfleur will provide capacity for 1,680 passengers and up to 550 cars and 64 trailers – or an all-freight roro payload of 130 trailers. As well as being the first vessel to bunker with onboard cranes, it will be the first Brittany Ferries' vessel powered by diesel-electric propulsion. Four Wärtsilä dual-fuel engines with a total output of 29,700 kW will drive electric generators and propulsion motors for two fixed-pitch propellers with flap rudders. Manoeuvring capability is enhanced with two 2,000-kW thrusters at the bow and one at the stern.
“Honfleur will set a new standard for ferries operating on the Channel,” says Brittany Ferries chief executive Christophe Mathieu. “It is important that we invest in new technologies and new vessels that respect the environment in which we operate.”
More new vessels and technologies – and more dedicated bunkering infrastructure – are on the way for Brittany Ferries’ long-haul routes. Starting in 2021 and adding one vessel a year until 2023, the company will charter three E-Flexer newbuilds constructed for Stena RoRo at AVIC Weihai shipyard in China, of which at least two will be LNG-fuelled.
As Mr Mathieu comments, the charters demonstrate the company’s commitment to LNG as fuel and its faith in growing traffic on its UK routes if or when the country leaves the European Union. The three 42,200-gt ships will be among the biggest in Brittany Ferries’ fleet. Each will be 215-m long with 3,000 lane m for freight vehicles, and capacity for around 1,000 passengers in 340 cabins.
The company has already signed a bunkering agreement for one of the vessels. Spanish energy company Repsol will provide a long-term supply of LNG and shoreside infrastructure to Salamanca, scheduled to enter service in 2022. Repsol will install a fixed, quayside LNG storage and supply system in one of Brittany Ferries’ two Spanish ports, Santander or Bilbao. It will then supply LNG bunker fuel during the ship’s regular visits on routes linking Portsmouth and northern Spain. A final decision on the location of the terminal will be made later this year.
The deal for constructing Honfleur was the first project to be financed under the €750M (US$853M) Green Shipping Guarantee programme implemented in 2016 by the European Investment Bank, the EU’s lending institution, as a means of promoting low-carbon investments. Innovative elements of the Honfleur design and engineering have also received public funding support through the Investissements d’Avenir (Investments for the Future) scheme, overseen by the French Agency for Environment & Energy Management.
But public funding does not always guarantee the success of a project. Swedish shipowner Stena Line will not progress with its first dual-fuel retrofit despite receiving funding from the German Government.
The project to convert the 38,000-gt ropax ferry Mecklenburg-Vorpommern for LNG received a grant from the German Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure in March. But Stena Line decided not to go ahead, citing discussions around “budget, technical challenges and both operational and financial risk”.
Stena Line trade director Germany Ron Gerlach explains that the company was “by no means ruling out gas as an alternative fuel for our vessels”. As mentioned above the company has ordered the E-Flexer series of ropax vessels from Avic International shipyard in China that will be LNG-ready, with the final ship expected to operate on gas from its delivery in 2021.
“We will stay open with regard to technologies at hand to allow us full flexibility in our European route network,” says Mr Gerlach. “We will also continue to focus our efforts on other projects such as looking at expanding our battery project on Stena Jutlandica to further vessels and to extend our onshore power supply solutions to include more of our ports.”
At 22 years’ old, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern would have been one of the oldest vessels to be retrofitted for LNG. The age of a vessel can affect the viability of a conversion by limiting payback time and because of the constraints of installed engine technology.
Stena Line is familiar with challenging retrofits, having converted four Wärtsilä four-stroke engines for methanol fuel on board the then 14-year-old cruise ferry Stena Germanica from 2015.
A 6,000-m3 bunker vessel operated by Eesti Gaas will boost LNG fuelling options in the Baltic
While Brittany Ferries brings in its dedicated infrastructure, in other locations it is ambitious ports that are driving the availability of gas fuel. One example is Estonian utility Eesti Gaas, which has commissioned the first in a series of shortsea bunker vessels to serve the Baltic Sea around Tallinn, starting with regional ferry operator Tallink.
“Eesti Gaas and our launch client, ferry operator Tallink, will become the companies with the most LNG competence in this region,” says Eesti Gaas board member Kalev Reiljan. “Eesti Gaas has performed over 1,500 port-based LNG truck-to-ship refuellings of Tallink’s LNG-powered Megastar ferry and now we are moving on toward offshore, more mobile solutions.”
Damen Yichang Shipyard cut steel on the vessel in March. The 6,000 m³-capacity vessel and its future sister ships are intended to accelerate the adoption of LNG in the north-eastern Baltic Sea by providing a ship-to-ship bunkering service in the region for the first time.
The LGC 6000 LNG vessels are designed to meet ice-class 1A certification, allowing them to operate all year in the Gulf of Finland and the northern Baltic. A dual-fuel propulsion system will be used to manage the boil-off gas in combination with a gas burner. The vessel will host two Type-C tanks of 3,000 m3 each, with Chinese supplier Gloryholder Liquefied Gas Machinery providing the cargo handling and fuel gas supply system.
The two type-C LNG tanks will be partially open, ensuring good access and easy upgrade options as the LNG consumer market develops, Eesti Gaas said. Following sea trials, the ship will arrive in Estonia in mid-2020 and will start serving LNG clients in Q3. Eesti Gaas will operate the vessel under a long-term charter from parent company Infortar.