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LNG as fuel gathers speed, but older vessels face bumps in the road

Photo: CMA CGM CMA CGM JACQUES SAADE_Rotterdam 1 (003).png
The 23,000 teu, LNG-powered CMA CGM Jacques Saade in the Port of Rotterdam
Some 18.5% of newbuildings contracted in the first four months of 2021 are designed to operate on LNG as fuel according to classification society DNV.

However, many older vessels are unlikely to meet new IMO carbon intensity requirements likely to be adopted at MEPC 76 in June and due to enter force in January 2023. Even a new ship, delivered in 2022, will need several upgrades over its lifetime to keep abreast of tightening IMO carbon regulations in the years ahead.

These were amongst the conclusions drawn by Christos Chryssakis, DNV Maritime’s Business Development Manager, at a webinar earlier this week, addressing the potential of LNG as a marine fuel.

Older ships of standard design will need to reduce speed, adopt alternative fuel strategies, or implement new energy-saving devices by way of retrofits, Chryssakis said. However, even modern vessels will need to be adapted as the carbon rules tighten.

Chryssakis revealed that a growing number of owners across different vessel types are seeing the benefits of LNG as fuel, with no less than 18.5% of new ships contracted between January and April this year built to operate on LNG.

While still containing the dreaded ‘C’ atom, LNG still offers a much-improved emissions profile, not only of greenhouse gases but also of other harmful emissions. Meanwhile, marine engine manufacturers are making significant progress as they tackle the issue of methane slip.

Scope for ships using LNG as fuel to move on to other low- or zero-carbon fuels as they become available assures its positions as a transition fuel, many believe. Norwegian shipowners and container line CMA CGM are amongst those adopting biogas as fuel, for example, and the world’s largest biogas production plant, near Trondheim in Norway, is to double its capacity in response to rising demand.

Listen to a recent episode of the Maritime Podcast with Glenn Edvardsen, CEO of UECC talking about the company's experience running LNG powered vessels

The positive message on LNG comes soon after a recent World Bank report, prepared by University Maritime Advisory Services, warned against investing further in LNG bunkering infrastructure. The risks of doing so, the report said, included unnecessary capital expenditure, stranded assets, and technology lock-in.

The report was slammed by LNG proponents including oil major Shell which said that shipping could not afford to wait for alternative fuels. DNV said it had “no direct comment on the World Bank study”.


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