Reaching maturity: Gas fuel evolution explored at GFS

14 Nov 2017
Kari-Pekka Laaksonen, CEO of Finnish owner Containerships, discusses LNG fuel strategy and customer perception

Kari-Pekka Laaksonen, CEO of Finnish owner Containerships, discusses LNG fuel strategy and customer perception

The first day of The Motorship’s Gas Fuelled Ships conference, being held this week on the Viking Line ferry ‘Mariella’, offered abundant evidence that LNG as a marine fuel is nearing maturity.

Conference chairman and BIMCO deputy secretary general Lars Robert Pedersen set the tone for discussions at the start of the day, noting that the shipping industry is beginning its journey towards decarbonisation. Gas fuel may be a solution to forthcoming sulphur regulations, but it is just a stepping stone on the way to a zero-emissions shipping fuel.

That point was picked up by Kari-Pekka Lakkonen, CEO of Finnish company Containerships. The ship owner will take delivery of a series of gas-fuelled feeder vessels next year, and Lakkonen noted that his customers had both demanded and welcomed the move towards decarbonisation. He supported the notion of LNG as a ‘bridge’ fuel, stating his belief that a zero-emissions solution would be developed during the lifetime of the new gas-fuelled ships.

Many solutions are already being trialled by Viking Line. Joacim Westerlund, technical director of the Finnish cruise and ferry operator, discussed many of these alternatives including the fuel cells being trialled onboard Mariella. Flettner rotors, gas fuel, batteries and waste heat recovery systems are being tested on other ships. Westerlund argued that the future fuel scenario will likely feature many of these solutions in a hybrid arrangement.

Presentations from experts in LNG pricing and availability confirmed that bunkering infrastructure is developing rapidly. Gerd-Michael Wuersig, LNG segment director, DNV GL, used the class society’s LNGi tool to highlight available infrastructure while Karen Sund of Sund Energy noted that gas can be made available anywhere within a week. Such infrastructure has enabled some breakthrough gas-fuelled ship orders this year, notably last week’s order by CMA CGM for nine dual-fuelled 22,000 teu containerships.

However, Sund reported that lack of bunker price transparency is a major obstacle for ship owners aiming to use gas fuel. Marital Claudespierre of Bureau Veritas also reported that, while infrastructure is emerging, CMA CGM could not bank on bunkering gas in Asia – hence the massive 18,600m3 fuel gas tanks on the newly ordered ships. Gas supply may be reaching maturity, but some challenges clearly remain.


A panel session on gas-fuelled ship projects focused on containerships, in particular the recent retrofit on Wessels bosxhip Wes Amelie, a new container feeder design from Odense Maritime Technology and a study investigating a dual-fuel retrofit on a 22,000 teu containership by Mitsui OSK Line. Another option investigated by CMA CGM, DNV GL, Solar Turbines, ABB and GTT is the use of gas turbines and electric propulsion to power an ultra-large container ship.

In a series of presentations on engine technology, Patrik Wagar of Wärtsilä discussed innovations in the group’s gas engine portfolio, with an emphasis on hybridisation. Both Wagar and Rudolf Wettstein of Winterthur Gas & Diesel talked about engines – four-stroke and two-stroke respectively – capable of running on LNG and volatile organic compounds, the vapours given off by oil products. Such technology could be a viable option on shuttle tankers – indeed Teekay Offshore has already ordered ships with Wärtsilä engines capable of burning both LNG and VOC.

The day closed with the presentation of a landmark LNG-fuelled ship project – the design and construction of the first gas-fuelled handysize bulk carriers. Nina Savijoki, of ship designer Deltamarin and Mikki Koskinen, managing director of ESL Shipping, charted a fruitful partnership that resulted in the successful delivery of the innovative vessels.

Throughout the day the crew onboard Mariella hosted visits to the bridge and the engine room, where delegates had a chance to inspect the ship’s unique humid air module, which helps reduce NOx emissions, reduce fuel consumption and increase power output on the four 12-cylinder Wärtsilä 40 engines. Visits to the ferry’s fuel cell – along with presentations on the project behind the installation – will be held later in the conference.

The event continues until Wednesday 15 November and is held in association with gold sponsor DNV GL.