There has been no let-up in the pace of LNG carrier shipyard activity so far in 2018. In the two months since LNG World Shipping’s previous fleet review, 10 LNG carriers have been handed over to their owners and nine further such vessels have been ordered.
In the four months to 30 April 2018, 23 LNG carriers were delivered and 18 vessels added to the orderbook. Japanese owners, charterers and shipbuilders have been at the fore in the latest batch of ship completions.
The portfolio of ships delivered in the last two months includes the first Moss spherical tank LNG carrier to be powered by a dual-fuel diesel-electric (DFDE) propulsion system and the largest Moss spherical tank ship ever built. Both breakthrough vessels were constructed by the Sakaide yard of Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI) in Japan.
All the large, conventional-size LNG carriers built by KHI to date have Moss containment systems and, prior to the recent deliveries, all KHI-built LNG carriers had been steam-turbine-powered.
KHI’s first DFDE ship is LNG Sakura, a 177,000 m3 vessel delivered to a 70/30 joint venture partnership comprising Kansai Electric Power (Kepco) and NYK Line, respectively. Kepco will charter the ship for 20 years, to lift cargoes from Dominion Energy’s newly commissioned Cove Point export terminal in the US, among other facilities, while NYK Line will operate the vessel.
KHI has utilised its proprietary polyurethane foam Kawasaki Panel System to insulate the four spherical tanks on the twin-screw LNG Sakura (Sakura means “cherry blossom” in Japanese). The technology yields a comparatively low cargo boil-off gas (BOG) rate of 0.08% per day, an attractive attribute considering the long transpacific voyages on which the vessel will be engaged.
LNG Sakura departed Cove Point on 22 April with its inaugural cargo from the facility. The construction of a 5.1 million tonnes per annum (mta) liquefaction train at what was previously an LNG import terminal has given the Maryland facility a bi-directional capability.
While LNG Sakura marks a step up in size from KHI’s earlier LNG carriers, its next completion, the 182,000 m3 Pacific Breeze commissioned a few weeks later, is the world’s largest Moss ship.
Achieving LNG Sakura’s cargo-carrying capacity of 177,000 m3 - up from the 165,000 m3 characteristic of previous KHI LNG carriers - was made possible by marginal increases to both the tank diameter and the height of the equatorial ring. It is not possible to increase tank diameters further if transit of the Panama Canal’s new locks is required. So KHI achieved the record-breaking Pacific Breeze capacity by adding 1.6 m deep cylindrical equatorial rings to the two aftermost of the ship’s four tanks.
Pacific Breeze is owned by K Line and chartered by IT Marine Transport, a joint Inpex/Total shipping operation, for use in the carriage of LNG from the new 8.9 mta Ichthys LNG export terminal near Darwin in Australia to Taiwan’s CPC Corporation. As a result of the ship’s capacity and the relatively short voyage distance, the charterers anticipate that Pacific Breeze will lift 1.75 mta at the Ichthys terminal.
Like LNG Sakura, Pacific Breeze is powered by a DFDE propulsion system and its Kawasaki Panel System insulation yields a cargo BOG rate of 0.08%.
As part of the Ichthys LNG terminal commissioning process, Pacific Breeze delivered a cooldown cargo loaded in Singapore to the Darwin site on 26 April 2018. Pacific Breeze remains in the area following discharge of the cooldown shipment and there is a possibility that the vessel is lined up to load the inaugural Ichthys LNG export cargo.
More Japanese charters
In March 2018 the Nagasaki yard of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) delivered a Moss spherical tank ship for service with a new Australian export project. MHI handed over the 155,000 m3 Pacific Mimosa to LNG Marine Transport, a ship operating company in which Jera holds a 70% stake, Mitsubishi Corp 15% and NYK Line 15%. NYK is responsible for the ship’s technical management.
The vessel has been taken on long-term charter by Jera for lifting cargoes from the Chevron-led, 8.9 mta Wheatstone LNG project in northwestern Australia. Jera, a joint venture responsible for the combined LNG marketing activities of Tokyo Electric Power and Chubu Electric Power, is the largest buyer of Wheatstone’s output and lifted its first cargo from the project in November 2017.
Pacific Mimosa is powered by an ultra-steam-turbine (UST) propulsion system that makes use of reheated steam to achieve fuel efficiency gains of 15% over traditional steam turbines. With the UST technology the boiler generates high-pressure steam at 12 MPa and 565˚C by transferring the heat from the combustion of the cargo BOG.
To the non-LNG community there is no immediate indication that Pacific Mimosa has four cargo tanks. In contrast to traditional Moss ships, where almost one-half of each spherical cargo tank protrudes above the main deck, the newbuilding is one of the new generation of “peas-in-a-pod” Sayaendo system design from MHI.
That means that the top half of each cargo tank is obscured by the continuous tank cover the extends the length of the main deck in way of the cargo tanks. The cover not only protects the cargo tanks and deck pipework, but also adds to the vessel’s structural integrity.
Two other recent newbuildings have Japanese connections. Castillo de Merida is the first of a pair of 178,000 m3 newbuildings for Spain’s Naviera Elcano from the Saijo yard of Imabari, while the Samsung-built Marvel Falcon is destined to lift Cameron LNG exports under charter to Mitsui & Co and the technical management of NYK Line.
The capacity of Castillo de Merida marks a significant step up from the 154,000 m3 size of the previous LNG carriers built by Imabari. Castillo de Merida and its imminent Imabari newbuilding sistership, Castillo de Caldelas, have been taken on charter by Gas Natural Fenosa (GNF) for the lifting of Sabine Pass LNG cargoes in the US state of Louisiana; as an ability to optimise Panama Canal transit opportunities is paramount, the principals have decided on the 178,000 m3 size for the pair.
Castillo de Merida is propelled by a pair of MAN Diesel & Turbo’s M-type electronically controlled gas-injection (ME-GI) engines, a two-stroke propulsion system particularly popular in the LNG carrier sector at the moment. The ship also has GTT Mark III Flex membrane tanks, a containment system that provides a reduction in cargo BOG rates down to the 0.10% level.
While Imabari has achieved considerable success in the domestic shipbuilding sector in recent years, not least in the construction of next-generation ultra-large container ships for domestic shipowners, the fabrication of the latest LNG carriers has caused difficulties and the deliveries of Castillo de Meridas and Castillo de Caldedas were nine months later than originally planned.
The 174,000 m3 Marvel Falcon was delivered by Samsung Heavy Industries (SHI) to NYK Line in April 2018. The ship is the first in a fleet of eight new vessels that Mitsui & Co is taking on 25-year charters, primarily to lift cargoes from the planned Cameron LNG export terminal in Louisiana.
Marvel Falcon is powered by a pair of Generation X, low-pressure, dual-fuel, two-stroke (X-DF) engines developed by Winterthur Gas & Diesel (WinGD). Two-stroke engines are now the propulsion system of choice for conventional-size LNG carriers and, of the new ships ordered so far this year, preferences have been split fairly evenly between the ME-GI and X-DF engine types.