Containerships Nord

LNG delivers the best return on investment (ROI) for container shipping lines, according to a new study, commissioned by the collaborative industry foundation SEA\LNG.

The study analysed the case of a newbuild 14,000 teu vessel deployed on the Asia-US west coast transpacific trade and compares six fuel price scenarios, one featuring the installation of exhaust gas cleaning systems, known as scrubbers.

According to the report, LNG delivers the best ROI, with a payback period ranging from one to two years.

Undertaken by Opsiana, a Scandinavian consultancy, the study aimed to “support shipowners and operators in analysing their investment opportunities in an informed way”, said SEA\LNG chairman Peter Keller.

Mr Keller claimed there had been “too many unqualified assumptions about the investment case for LNG” and that shipowners and operators deserved “factual information”.

The SEA\LNG initiative followed a perceived lack of traction for the LNG option in the strategies of ocean carriers for compliance with the IMO’s 0.5% sulphur cap.

Indeed, Hapag-Lloyd has 17 LNG-ready ULCVs inherited from its merger with UASC, but said it only planned to convert one 15,000 teu ship to run on LNG in a pilot scheme.

Speaking during the carrier’s Capital Markets Day in November, then chief operating officer Anthony Firmin claimed retro-fitting the ships with gas tanks would cost $25m per unit, compared with the $10m cost of a scrubber system. But he regarded LNG as the mid-term solution to IMO 2020 over the “attractive” short-term solution of scrubbers.

CMA CGM is the first carrier to commit to LNG fuel for the propulsion on its order of nine 22,000 teu ULCVs due to be delivered in 2020, while its recently acquired shortsea subsidiary, Containerships, has already taken delivery of one of a series of four 1,400 teu LNG-powered vessels, the Containerships Nord (pictured above).

Despite the economics of LNG, there are still concerns about its availability and the need for special bunkering facilities at ports.

Meanwhile, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, today’s session, sponsored by Friends of Ocean Action, discussed shipping emissions and how to rapidly decarbonise the shipping industry.

A panel, which included vice chief executive of Maersk Group Claus Hemmingsen, advocated urgent cross-industry dialogue to dramatically cut greenhouse gas emissions from shipping, reaching the IMO’s target of a 50% reduction by 2050 – but “preferably to achieve Maersk’s goal of zero CO2 by that year”.

Maersk has invested $1bn in the last four years on research and development, which Mr Hemmingsen admitted was being driven by customers, the carrier having seen a 30% increase in tenders from shippers that insist on the use of sustainable fuel.

Mr Hemmingsen said that given the average 25-year lifetime of a ship, R&D in the next 10 years would be crucial to meeting emission targets.

Another panellist said he had spoken to several large shippers and forwarders at the event who claimed they had committed to be carbon-free by 2050, and “expect their shipping lines to do the same”.

Nevertheless, LNG which emits 99% less sulphur, 85% less nitrogen oxides and up to 25% less CO2 than conventional fuel oil, may not be the long-term solution for shipping. The panellists discussed electric power, which they envisaged being used for barges and coastal movements, but is however impractical for deepsea voyages without charging points.

Other options being researched for the ships of the future include bio-diesel and ammonia (hydrogen), solar and wind power.

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